A Haiti Update from Dr. Paul Farmer
Dr. Paul Farmer, PIH co-founder and chief strategist give an update on PIH's response in Haiti.
Posted on Aug 17, 2021
Dear PIH friends and supporters:
I am never more proud of Partners In Health than I am in the hardest of times, when our teams respond to crises with expertise and compassion, mobilizing on the spot to provide vital medical care and spread hope amid despair.
That has been the case over the three days following Saturday’s massive earthquake in southern Haiti. We’re still learning about the scope of the disaster and assessing the needs in the most affected areas of Haiti’s southern peninsula. But we know that there are thousands of casualties in the larger population centers and in outlying areas, many of which remain cut-off from outside support.
Our immediate efforts are focused on mobilizing support to these hard-hit areas, including the cities of Jeremie, Les Cayes, and Petit-Trou-de-Nippes, the epicenter. Our first team of doctors arrived in Les Cayes on Monday morning and are triaging patients and assessing surgical needs. Those doctors and nurses are part of a Zanmi Lasante staff that is 99% Haitian and more than 6,500 strong, partnering with the national health authorities to constitute the country’s largest and strongest health system.
We are deploying additional teams—including trauma and orthopedic specialists—to the peninsula when roads are cleared. Our construction partner, Build Health International, is on the ground conducting safety assessments in places with significant structural damage.
Staff at Zanmi Lasante, as PIH is known in Haiti, are hard at work across the country, mustering hospital beds and supplies, and creating teams to care for people from beyond our catchment areas. Our teams in Mirebalais, Saint-Marc, and Hinche have enacted emergency protocols developed after Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, and PIHers in Fonds des Blancs—supporting the excellent St. Boniface Hospital, two hours from the epicenter—are also helping prepare for an influx of patients. We have 10 operating rooms across facilities in the Central and Artibonite Departments, and are ready to receive and treat critically injured patients.
The health authorities have worked up a list of pressing needs, and we’re working to source and ship supplies, medicine, and equipment for the Ministry of Health, our partner organizations, and Zanmi Lasante.
Meanwhile, storms literal and figurative continue to mount in Haiti. Hurricane season is upon us, and Tropical Storm Grace struck Monday night, bringing floods and fuel shortages to a country beset by political turmoil, including the assassination of its president only a few weeks ago. Heavy rainfall is likely to cause mudslides and further hamper transportation on or across already damaged roads and bridges.
An additional concern from Grace is cholera, which PIH helped to curb in Haiti through comprehensive vaccination and clean-water campaigns in recent years. As acute crises pile on top of each other, COVID-19 cases are rising in the country, as well, with Zanmi Lasante reporting many new cases this week.
We also are taking steps to address the mental health needs of the population, as Saturday’s disaster has surely brought back traumatic memories from 2010. We all feel it, too.
As Zanmi Lasante responds to these urgent needs, our teams will continue to provide access to the lifesaving care that is their vocation, serving millions across the country.
And, as always, we are deeply grateful to you, our dedicated and steadfast community of supporters.
We will continue to update you in the days ahead.
With gratitude, and in solidarity,