Press Briefing, Feb. 3
Dr. Jon Andrus
PAHO Deputy Director
Yesterday, Haiti’s Ministry of Health began a targeted, staged vaccination campaign with support from PAHO/WHO, UNICEF and nongovernmental partners.
The campaign’s first stage consists of tetanus vaccines for some 200,000 people who have been wounded or injured and have undergone medical care since the earthquake, including surgery patients. These tetanus vaccinations have been well under way for several days.
The second stage, however, began yesterday and targets about 250,000 children under 7 living in temporary settlements, most of them in Port-au-Prince. They will get the combined dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3). Children over 9 months will also receive measles and rubella vaccinations, along with Vitamin A supplements.
Reports from medical teams on the ground continue to show a decline in the number of trauma injuries requiring treatment.
We know more children are suffering from diarrheal disease, particularly in the resettlement areas, and existing mobile health units and standing facilities are responding.
We are now 22 days out from the earthquake that crushed Haiti, and it is increasingly clear that people are requiring more mental health support to cope with the tragedy. Mental health experts have been deployed, and special training and support activities have been launched around metropolitan Port-au-Prince.
As part of its coordinating role, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization has created an online volunteer registry to collect information on health workers interested in volunteering in Haiti.
The registry includes data on people’s experience, skills, and availability, as well as their contact information.
Candidates must be fluent in French, and Creole is an asset. Currently, the most needed areas of expertise are public health, medicine and disaster management. Potential volunteers can register at www.paho.org/haitivolunteers.
Information from the registry is circulated among agencies already working in Haiti, and if a volunteer’s experience and skills match an identified need, the applicant may be contacted to provide support.
In collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, a separate database of medical human resources already available in-country has also been created by the PAHO/WHO-led Health Cluster.
Haiti’s Ministry of Health has requested that all partners working as part of the Health Cluster register their organizations—and more details about exactly what medical resources they have—with the Ministry.
The Ministry has also asked that all health teams let the Ministry know when they are leaving the country so that other agencies can be mobilized in their place, to ensure continuity of care.
As I have said before, coordinating closely with the Haitian government is critically important to ensure that the efforts of volunteers—both individuals and organizations—support actual needs and respect existing administrative processes.
This coordination and respect for Haitian authority will be important in the longer term as well. As PAHO’s Director, Dr. Mirta Roses, said on her return from Haiti last week, Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction will be successful only if there is a long-term commitment from the international community and if the Haitians themselves are allowed and empowered to lead the process.
To that end, the PAHO-led Health Cluster supports the Ministry of Health by convening daily meetings at 4 pm. We know that more than 135 agencies and non-governmental organizations are participating.
Sub-cluster working groups have been formed and meet regularly to coordinate the broad areas of work covering, for example: epidemiology and surveillance, primary care, including the operation and management of mobile clinics, prosthetic devices, reproductive health, and mental health, as I mentioned.
From our staging base in Jimaní, in the Dominican Republic on the Haitian border, PAHO/WHO’s Logistics Supply Management System (LSS/SUMA) classified and organized more than 400 tons of humanitarian supplies during the period January 22 to 31.
Another one of the Ministry’s emerging concerns is to resume long-term care for patients who were undergoing treatment for conditions before the earthquake, particularly HIV/AIDS patients, since treatment has been interrupted for many of these patients. Here again, supply management is essential.
Staff from Haiti’s National Program for Control of Malaria and Lymphatic Filariasis have met with partners from CDC, PAHO/WHO, and others to discuss a strategy for vector-borne disease control. They are drafting an advisory note for partners in each of the U.N. cluster groups and will distribute copies of the national protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of malaria, dengue, filariasis, and other vector-borne diseases.
I will stop there and address any questions that you may have. Thanks again for coming.