In the last 10 months Haiti has suffered an earthquake leaving over 1 million homeless and 300,000 dead, and a cholera outbreak with more than 6,742 hospitalized sick and 442 dead.
And now, as Hurricane Tomas approaches Haiti's shores, I fear that numbers like these will only continue to rise.
As Deputy Chief of Mission in Haiti for Partners In Health, I have spent the last 13 years working alongside our colleagues at Zanmi Lasante, Partners In Health's sister organization. Our mission to break the cycle of poverty and disease in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation has always been challenging—but 2010 has been by far the most difficult year we have faced.
Zanmi Lasante's hurricane preparedness plans are already underway. In anticipation of washed out bridges and roads, the team has rushed additional medical supplies to endangered facilities to ensure that patient care—including cholera treatment as well as primary care—continues. ZL staff members are being pre-positioned in key locations to ride out the storm, rapidly assess the damage, and effectively mobilize resources in its wake.
In the coming days, we'll be working to keep you updated about events on the ground. But today we're asking you to help us prepare by staying tuned and by spreading the word to friends and family.
We also want you to know that "60 Minutes" on CBS has recorded a major piece on earthquake recovery and cholera response efforts, focusing in large part on Zanmi Lasante's work. The air date is uncertain, but when confirmed it will be an opportunity for you to help us educate hundreds of thousands of people about the work that you have helped accomplish and all that remains to be done.
It would be easy to reflect on how "unlucky" Haiti has been to be struck by so many disasters in such a short sequence, but that line of thought masks responsibility and leaves us treating only symptoms, not the disease. There are clear root causes behind Haiti's vulnerability to these disasters—and there are equally clear solutions.
Seventy percent of Haitians lack continuous direct access to clean water, leaving them vulnerable to cholera and other water-borne diseases. Haiti's deforested hills are prone to mudslides making storms far more deadly.
We are fortunate to have a growing base of supporters, like you, to accompany us as we face this challenge. But our task remains daunting, and creating more awareness and a truly global movement of supporters will be needed if we hope to succeed.
Please stay tuned and help raise awareness by spreading the word to friends and family.
Dr. David Walton
Deputy Chief of Mission, Haiti