Health and Life in Haiti
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 seventy-four percent of all births are unattended by a skilled birth attendant. 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
MTI has provided development assistance to Haiti that extends beyond our earthquake disaster response efforts. These have included funding a safe home-birth program through Catholic Relief Services, providing midwifery training to traditional and professional birth attendants and running a static health clinic at an internally displaced persons informal settlement. Our current activities include the following programs:
MTI Plans for 2013-2014
Advantage Rehabilitation Program
Effective July, 2010, Medical Teams International took responsibility for oversight and funding of the Advantage program. Since 2001, Advantage has been providing assistance and rehabilitation services to persons with a wide variety of disabling conditions in Haiti. In August, 2009, our Prosthetics/Orthotics facility was chosen as one of the premiere clinics in the country. This program fills a critical gap in services. There are only a couple of dozen Haitian physical therapists, therefore, the program builds local rehabilitation capacity strengthening providing training to local Haitians in the absence of a national training program. For more information, please see our Haiti Advantage Page.
Centre Medical Beraca Capacity Building
The projects at Centre Medical Beraca, is a 78 bed ‘full service’ Baptist hospital with very basic focus on Maternity, Pediatric, Surgery, Internal Medicine, and Infectious Disease. It is located in northwest Haiti in La Pointe, allowing it to serve some of the most marginalized 450,000 people in Haiti. The hospital was founded in 1944 by Missionary Nurse Caroline Bradshaw and has survived through natural disasters, political upheavals and financial hardships, a testament to the dedication, hard work and ingenuity of its staff. MTI has assisted this partner by:
- Sending medical teams that provide specialty training for hospital staff.
- Supporting the hospital’s Cholera Treatment Center.
- Providing medical supplies and equipment.
- Aiding the hospital with infrastructural improvements necessary to improve patient care, expand services and break down barriers to accessing medical services. This has included financial support in building an Emergency Department.
We will continue to provide support through ongoing specialty training, particularly in emergency medicine and labor and delivery, conducted by medical training teams.
Crochu Community Health Program
In fall of 2012, the Ministry of Health collaborated with MTI to identify a region in need of community health programming. This program is facilitated through MTI but community led. MTI has trained community leaders on how to conduct a community health assessment, identify their community’s health concerns, and is helping the community address their health priorities. In this case, the community prioritized maternal and newborn health, cholera, and other diarrheal diseases. MTI will support the community through humanitarian aid, technical assistance, health education, and working with health facilities and the community to improve access to care.
Haiti Foundation of Hope Community Health Program
Haiti Foundation of Hope (HFH)is a Christian organization whose leaders have over 20 years of experience in Haiti. Historically their work has included education, economic development, and health care services. Haiti Foundation of Hope has partnered with MTI to come along side 6 communities in the Artibonite department. The community health program began in 2009 and has helped empower the communities to address their own health concerns, including: child nutrition, maternal health, and diarrhea. In the coming year, HFH will expand the scope of the community health program to include activites aimed at combating pneumonia, tuberculosis and HIV, Since 2004, MTI has provided various combinations of direct care and specialty care training teams, technical assistance, humanitarian aid as well as small grant funding. The community health program is an extension of the work done by the Clinic of Hope in Terre Blanche, which serves approximately 10,000 people per year.
Our partners in Haiti
Disaster response partners:
With these partners, our teams provided disaster relief aid through medicines, supplies and medical services in local hospitals and in the tent cities all around Port-au-Prince.
Volunteers should familiarize themselves with the security situation in Haiti by researching various websites: the Overseas Security Advisory Council - http://www.osac.gov, the U.S. Department of State - http://travel.state.gov, Australia’s Smart Traveler’s website - http://smarttraveler.gov.au and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Common wealth Office website - http://smarttraveler.gov.au. Volunteers should enroll in the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – STEP (https://step.state.gov) or at the website for the country of their citizenship in order to be assisted if services are required.
Please donate or volunteer to help save lives in Haiti.