Port-au-Prince - In response to the earthquake that struck Haiti one month ago, Haitian authorities, United Nations agencies and donor countries will continue to provide medicines and medical supplies to health facilities in Haiti through a large-scale coordinated effort run out of the country's central pharmaceutical store, known as PROMESS (Program on Essential Medicine and Supplies) in Port-au-Prince.
“PROMESS will continue to fulfill its mandate and distribute drugs and medical supplies to the public health facilities and health centers and make sure that the people most in need will receive the necessary medicines,” said Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
All donations received by PROMESS will be distributed at no cost to public health facilities, health centers and provisional health services which don’t depend on international NGOs and are accredited by the Ministry of Health of Haiti. The PROMESS Management Committee agreed this week that international organizations, NGOs, and charitable organizations authorized by the Ministry of Public Health will be able to obtain supplies from PROMESS, defraying costs under the system in place before the earthquake.
The Ministry of Health of Haiti is taking seriously and investigating allegations of charges for services or medicines to patients in public hospitals receiving supplies free from PROMESS, Dr. Roses noted.
PROMESS has been operating in Haiti for years prior to the earthquake and was a critical first responder in the emergency. Founded in 1992, PROMESS is being strengthened as the central supplier of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for Haiti so it can continue to serve health needs. Organizing and distributing medical donations has been one of the most vital tasks for humanitarian workers following the earthquake.
Haiti's health system has multiple providers, both for profit and not for profit, in which the majority of services recover some of the costs from users. The Ministry of Health, PAHO/WHO and partners have established a method of operation for PROMESS that guarantees supply to the population--in terms of quality, quantity and timeliness--as well as the continued existence of PROMESS.
PROMESS is also an important component of reconstruction plans for Haiti's health systems--in addition to medicines health supplies and equipment for priority programs, it is also the central storage for vaccines. Supplies and devices for priority programs provided by UNICEF and UNFPA are also included in PROMESS
“Without PROMESS we would have had a second catastrophe,” Dr. Alex Larsen, Haitian Minister of Health, said recently at the PROMESS warehouse.
Operations for the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) country office were run out of PROMESS in days following the quake. When roads were blocked with rubble, staff went on foot carrying drugs from PROMESS to deliver them to UN and nongovernmental organization partners working in health.
As the humanitarian operation intensified, more and more shipments of medical supplies started arriving at Port-au-Prince airport, located close to PROMESS. To meet the increased logistical challenges, WHO/PAHO is running programs that coordinate all donations from many governments, including the United States, into a single system to ensure medicines are delivered as quickly as possible to where they are needed.
PROMESS continues to supply medicines and related supplies to health facilities throughout Haiti, not just Port-au-Prince. Following the quake, PROMESS was virtually the only source of drugs and medical supplies in the country, and there was a dramatic increase in demand from established health facilities and from temporary field hospitals that had mobilized to support the relief effort.
As medical donations began streaming into Haiti, PROMESS adjusted to the need to streamline the truckloads of material arriving daily at PROMESS, and to distribute them to where they were needed most.
Going forward to sustain efforts as PROMESS responds to new challenges, the Haitian government, WHO/PAHO and USAID have been visiting organizations, hospitals and clinics throughout Haiti to assess medicine shortages and link the facilities to the PROMESS warehouse.
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