Just as Ebola fades from the headlines, another infectious disease, the Zika virus, has captured the world’s attention. Zika, which is suspected of leading to complications for pregnant women and their children, was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization in February. The extent of the threats the virus poses are still unknown.
Zika is just the latest public health crisis Partners In Health has worked to address. We treated thousands sickened by the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We tackled a tuberculosis crisis in Russia's prison system. We fought cholera in the most impoverished regions of Haiti. And now, we're implementing a comprehensive plan to address the Zika virus in Haiti, from providing our patients with DEET and bed nets, to gathering frontline data to help learn how to battle the virus and its complications.
For nearly three decades, we’ve been caring for people sickened by illnesses that are easily treatable, and we’ve worked to build health systems in poor communities so that care is available to those in need. We believe this is the only way to be prepared for the next epidemic.
Early during the Ebola crisis, PIH co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer said the only “formula” to counter Ebola is strong, functioning health systems that provide quality care.
This is the core of our work—and it’s a lesson the global community is learning again with the Zika virus. In Brazil, the virus is spreading where poverty is concentrated. Mosquitos breed in the stagnant water of dirty canals or the dumped garbage of shantytowns. Poor people without access to running water store their own—and thus are at greater risk of contracting Zika.
We believe that strengthening health systems—building clinics and hospitals, training nurses and doctors, conducting research, and partnering with local governments—will raise the standard of care available to poor communities. It is also the way to prevent debilitating epidemics such as Ebola and Zika in the future.
Help us provide our patients with the health care they deserve. Join us in this fight.