Haiti has a history of being unstable and is currently in economic decline. It has been ranked by the United Nations as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the only country in the Latin America and Caribbean region on the UN’s list of Least Developed Countries. The United Nations Development Program estimates that nearly 80 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 per day and 55% of the total population lives under $1.25 per day.
Based on the most recent available data, Haiti has an infant mortality rate of 70 per 1000 live births, and an under-5 child mortality of 165/1000. According to 2010 WHO data (post-earthquake), common causes of death for children under age 5 include: injury (56%), pneumonia (10%), and diarrhea (7%). The maternal mortality rate is 630/100,000. Almost half of the population is food insecure with an under 5 underweight rate of 18%, and a stunting rate of 29%. The average Haitian will live until 62, compared to 78.6 in the US.
Additional concerns related to disease burden, access to care, and cost of care also exist. HIV prevalence is the highest in the Americas, with 5.6% of the 15-49 year old population and approximately 19,000 children living with HIV. Tuberculosis prevalence is 314/100,000. Haiti experienced the onset of a cholera epidemic in 2010 shortly after the earthquake. It was initially detected in the Central and Artibonite Departments but has since rapidly spread to other parts of the country. As of 15 January 2013, more than 640,000 cases have been reported, with more than 8,000 deaths. The underlying factors contributing to the cholera disaster include 74.3% of the population without adequate sanitation, 35% without potable water and 46% without access to health care. Human resources for health services are very limited, with 1 doctor and 5.5 nurses or nurse auxiliaries for every 12,000 people. Only 26% of births are attended by a skilled birth attendant, compared to 99% in the US. Government expenditures on health care account for only 4.5% of the government’s overall budget, and 79% of health expenditures are out-of-pocket.
The most familiar natural disaster is the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Haiti on January 12, 2010. One of the hardest hit areas was Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital. With a death toll in the thousands and millions of Haitians left homeless, injured and struggling to survive. The earthquake was the worst disaster to hit the country in 200 years. Since then Haiti has continued to experience a series of lesser known disasters: Hurricanes Thomas, Emily, Irene, Isaac, and Sandy; flooding in June 2011, October 2011, March 2012, November 2012 and June 2013; and droughts and food shortages in portions of the country. Man-made disasters have been linked to the political and economic instability that has marked much of Haiti’s history, as well as environmental degradation.
MTI has responded to the following disasters:
- 1994 to assist the victims of a civil conflict
- 2004 to provide health care services for those affected by Hurricane Jeanne
- 2010 to respond to the earthquake
- 2010 to provide relief to the cholera outbreak