Partners In Health’s Ophelia Dahl, Joia Mukherjee and Ted Constan Discuss Situation in Haiti
Anniversary of January 12 Earthquake Is Next Week
January 12, 2011, marks the first anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Learn more about PIH's work over the past year to treat thousands of desperately wounded people and to help restore and strengthen public health facilities and services:
For Immediate Release
January 5, 2011
“January 12 is a time for a reflection on some positive progress, but it’s also a time to renew the international commitment to solving these problems. If more effort isn’t made they could be around for generations.”
– Ted Constan
BOSTON – Ophelia Dahl, PIH’s Co-founder and Executive Director, Dr. Joia Mukherjee, PIH’s Chief Medical Officer, and Ted Constan, PIH’s Chief Program Officer will hosted a press conference call today to discuss the situation on the ground in Haiti, a week before the one year anniversary of the January 12, 2010, earthquake.
Dr. Mukherjee will be in Haiti from January 10 to January 16 and will be available for media interviews while she is there.
Listen to a recording of the January 5 media call on the player below:
Please see below for key quotes from the press call:
On working in Haiti following the earthquake: “We're very very proud of the work we've done, and yet we're humbled by the need that remains. The work that we've done has been highlighted by our very strong partnership with the Ministry of Health in Haiti, and the provision of healthcare in now 15 public facilities, as well as our charity hospital in Cange – where we're serving hundreds of thousands of people. Probably 1.5 million Haitians get their healthcare from facilities supported by PIH and the Ministry of Health. We have also engaged thousands of new Community Health Workers. Prior to the earthquake we had a staff of about 4,000; now that number is around 5,500. We've made significant progress in building the teaching hospital in Mirebalais and are on track to open that sometime in 2012. We have also focused our work around the needs of people wounded and affected by the earthquake, including augmenting and improving on mental health services," said Dr. Joia Mukherjee.
On conditions in "tent cities" of displaced people and creating possibilities for them to relocate: Clearly for us the biggest problem out there is the million displaced people and their living conditions. As we start to see sexual violence, at horrific levels existing in the camps, as we see a lot of political infighting around any kind of solution for finding places for folks to live, we begin to join in a chorus of impatience being expressed towards the response. A big part of this solution is jobs – we need to think about getting money down into the communities to produce jobs for people because that’s the only way people are going to get on their feet economically. We’d like to see more of a pull policy being generated around the getting people out of the campscamps. Solutions that pull people out of the camps – markets, jobs, health care, clean water, stable housing, etc. Rather than what we fear is people being pushed out of their piece of sanity that they’ve made for themselves. We’d like to see more of a pull policy being generated Instead, what we’re afraid we’ll see is people pushed from the small piece of sanity that they’ve found in the camps,” said Ted Constan.
On cholera vaccine and antibiotics: “The cholera vaccine has been effective in two areas in epidemics in Africa and elsewhere. One way is protecting people, obviously. But the second way is through herd immunity, because the oral vaccine is live – and so you don’t have to vaccinate the entire population as well. This is also how the Polio vaccine works. The shortage of the vaccine is the usual economic milieu, which is: the majority of people who would use such a vaccine are not from countries which could easily pay for the vaccine. So part of what we're doing in our advocacy is to find companies able to make the vaccine at large scale, and to secure funding which would guarantee that there would be a market for that vaccine through a donor, then we think we could get enough vaccine to at least focus on the most vulnerable – people living in slums; in camps; children - toward achieving herd immunity. Antibiotics are probably less controversial than has been portrayed – they definitely work in severe cholera and also in moderate cholera, and they work in two important ways (that are) life-saving. We are advocating a much more aggressive approach to the use of antibiotics, rather than only focusing it on severe cholera. We feel we should do everything, in terms of the solutions,” said Dr. Joia Mukherjee.
On the need for coordination among organizations: “It is indeed a mess and something has to be done about it.There has to be, in the future, a way to co-ordinate the NGOs in Haiti – its been done in Rwanda very effectively, with accountability and goals attached to the presence of the NGOs there.. Haiti has 10 000 charities and NGOs working in that relatively small country - I think only India has more,” said Ophelia Dahl.