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New Funds Sought for Health and Recovery Efforts in Haiti

$1.4 billion appeal includes $134 million for health needs over the next 12 months

Washington, D.C., Feb. 19, 2010 (PAHO) - The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has joined dozens of partner agencies in requesting US$1,441,547,920 in donor funds to meet the humanitarian needs of Haitians affected by last month's earthquake and to support reconstruction and the reestablishment of basic services during the next 12 months. 

Requested funds can be monitored through the Haiti Humanitarian Appeal Interactive Dashboard which was prepared by PAHO.

Haitians stand in line to get food and other supplies
(Photo PAHO/WHO Victor Ariscain)
As part of the new humanitarian appeal, PAHO/WHO and health sector partners are seeking US$134 million to support a range of projects aimed at meeting priority health needs, supporting the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, and making the country's health system functional again.

Included in the appeal are PAHO/WHO projects to:
  • Make essential medicines and supplies available
  • Ensure surveillance of and response to communicable diseases outbreaks
  • Reactivate basic health services
  • Coordinate, assess, and reduce disaster risks
  • Address environmental health concerns 
  • Support the Dominican Republic's health response to Haiti
  • Provide rehabilitation services for amputees and other injured
  • Control vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Reactivate specialized health care in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area 
PAHO Director Mirta Roses said that, to succeed, these and other efforts to rebuild Haiti will require more funds as well as a greater focus on supporting and empowering Haiti's leadership and people.

"We know that the coordination of humanitarian relief efforts-in the health sector and other sectors-has been a major challenge and has affected the success of our efforts. Going forward, our greatest challenge will be to resist any tendency to assume the leadership function that properly belongs to the Haitian people and government. Our job must be to help Haitians restore their own authority over their country."

She noted that Haiti's Ministry of Health lost some 200 staff members when its offices collapsed in the quake. Many Haitian doctors and nurses were killed or injured in the quake, and many health facilities damaged or crippled.

Currently the Ministry of Health, with support from PAHO/WHO, is pursuing the short-term goal of making the country's health districts operational and ensuring that essential health services are available in affected areas.

Over the longer term, Roses said, "Haiti will need help to rebuild its damaged health infrastructure, to build institutional capacity to improve the health system in affected areas, and to lay the foundation for a permanent, sustainable national health system." 

This week's humanitarian appeal is the largest ever launched following a natural disaster and addresses the needs of some 3 million people who were seriously affected by Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake. It is being coordinated by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). WHO is the United Nations' lead agency for health, and PAHO serves as WHO's regional office for the Americas.

The January quake killed an estimated 217,300 people and injured some 300,600. Some 1.9 million people lost their homes, and over 511,000 have left the affected cities.

OCHA estimates that more than 1.2 million Haitians are still in need of emergency shelter. Some 600,000 to 700,000 are living in spontaneous settlements in Port-au-Prince and need sanitation and hygiene assistance as well as shelter. At least 2 million need food assistance. Host families and communities who are supporting displaced people have also been seriously affected.

Over the past month, the health focus has shifted from emergency trauma care to post-operative care and rehabilitation for amputees and other injured people, monitoring and surveillance for disease outbreaks, and the restoration of primary healthcare services and mobile clinics to provide care for people in spontaneous settlements.

Overcrowded living conditions in settlements are a major concern, as is the need to provide adequate shelter and sanitation services before the rainy season begins. Diarrhea and water-borne diseases are both an immediate and a longer-term threat, and displaced people could also face a higher risk of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue as a result of their increased exposure to insects.  

Other priority health needs include mental health services for amputees and other injured people, displaced people, and those who lost their homes, livelihoods, or loved ones in the quake. Many others require ongoing or resumed treatment for HIV, tuberculosis and other chronic diseases.

PAHO/WHO had more than 50 staff on the ground in Haiti when the earthquake struck and has since mobilized an additional 60 international experts in disaster management, epidemiology, public health, communicable diseases, mental health, rehabilitation, water and sanitation, and communications, among others. The PAHO/WHO-run PROMESS (Program on Essential Medicine and Supplies) warehouse at the Port-au-Prince airport has been providing tons of medicines to scores of health partners on a daily basis since the quake.  PAHO/WHO is also operating a field office in the Dominican Republic along the border with Haiti, to facilitate logistic operations.

More than 396 national and international organizations have registered with the PAHO/WHO-led Health Cluster in Haiti, which is supporting Haitian government efforts to address health needs.

"Coordinating all these agencies' efforts and aligning them with the goals and strategies of the Ministry of Health will be key to ensuring the success of not only relief efforts but also Haiti's efforts to rebuild its own health system so it is stronger and better than before," said PAHO Director Roses.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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