As the three-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti approached, a flurry of news articles reported on failures in development and missed opportunities for rebuilding the country. Yet a Jan. 15, 2013, article in The Lancet, “Cautious optimism on public health in post-earthquake Haiti,” shows that significant progress has been made in addressing some of Haiti’s toughest health problems in the wake of the disaster.
Yes, Haiti achieved remarkable gains in public health after the earthquake in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.
In the past three years, access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy for HIV patients doubled, according to the article. Meanwhile, treatment coverage of lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, which causes severe pain and disability, jumped from 35 percent to 90 percent in the same period. Furthermore, the cholera fatality case rate “has been maintained at less than 1% since January 2011.” At the same time, the country’s HIV program made significant progress in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, and a successful measles–rubella and oral polio vaccine campaign for children launched in 2012.
From the perspective of Partners In Health and its Haitian sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, these results are not unexpected. For more than ten years, we have worked shoulder to shoulder with the Haitian Ministry of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other partners to strengthen the health system in the Central Plateau and Artibonite regions. Major investments from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM) have provided consistent, long-term support to build the capacity of Haiti’s public health workforce, facilities, and community-based programs. These efforts have created a solid foundation for improving health in Haiti. And that platform has grown even stronger after one of the worst disasters in modern history.
Soon the Haitian government will release the details of its plan to eliminate cholera. We urge the U.S. government and other partners in the public and private sector to support this plan and increase their support for health care services.
Based on Haiti’s recent track record in health, we know they will be sound investments.