Two Years after the Earthquake, Haiti Is Not Forgotten

[Left to Right: Annick Supplice Dupuy, Deputy Director for  Haiti, Population Services International and Diana Silimperi, Vice President, Center for Health Services, MSH (Photo credit: MSH)]Left to Right: Annick Supplice Dupuy, Deputy Director for Haiti, Population Services International and Diana Silimperi, Vice President, Center for Health Services, MSH (Photo credit: MSH)
 On Monday, January 30, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and partners held an event to observe the second anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti—one of the most devastating to ever hit the island. Hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the event included speakers from MSH, Global Health Council, Population Services International (PSI), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) joined together at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars to focus on a critical but often neglected issue – the needs and well-being of Haiti’s women and children.

Dr. Diana Silimperi, MSH Vice-President, moderated a dynamic panel comprised of Dr. Guirlaine Raymond, Director, Health for Family, Haitian Ministry of Health; Kelly Saldana, Acting Deputy Director, Office of Health Infectious Diseases and Nutrition, the United States Agency for International Development; Annick Supplice Dupuy, Deputy Director for Haiti, PSI; and Siti Batoul Oussein, UNFPA’s Deputy Representative for Haiti. Each speaker balanced the realities of the political, social, and economic infrastructures in Haiti after the earthquake with the current progress being made toward health for women and children, and how they are working together to build a healthier future for them.

Common themes included: support of the Haitian government so they can meet the needs of the people, strengthening community programs for training frontline health workers, and building of the local capacity of NGOs to carry out health services.

“At the root of USAID’s health strategy for Haiti is putting women and children at the forefront,” said Kelly Saldana, acting deputy director for the agency’s Office of Health, Infectious Diseases, and Nutrition. “This includes strengthening the Ministry of Health’s capability,” Saldana continued. “USAID will move to support the government of Haiti for the delivery of health services and help to strengthen the non-governmental organizations who carry out a lot of service assistance.”

It is clear that Haiti has a long rebuilding process ahead of it, but there have been many successes already. The new Ministry staff is ready to make positive changes for its people.

Video of the event will be released on the Wilson Center website next week.

Other Haiti events held in the Washington, DC area included a series of public forums held by Members of Congress, in coordination with the Haiti Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), on gender-based violence, cholera, land and housing rights, governance, and funding. A briefing was also held to view the documentary produced by Michele Mitchell, “Where did the Money Go?” which focused on the global aid promises and funding made to Haiti.

In the gender-based violence briefing, held on January 23, Emmania Duchard of KOFAVIV and Marie Ange Noel of Fanm Deside discussed security issues, problems in the justice system, and the difficulty victims have getting medical certificates from public hospitals after experiencing gender-based violence. The certificates are often the only evidence considered in such cases. To address these issues, organizations at the briefing have helped to set up support committees for rape survivors in IDP camps, and will also advocate for rape survivors to help convince the police to arrest perpetrators.

In the cholera briefing, held on January 24, the audience intently listened as Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy Research stressed the need for Congress to urge the United Nations to address cholera in Haiti, while Dr. Jon Andrus of the Pan American Health Association (PAHOH) explained that, “Haiti has one of the largest cholera epidemics in a single country in history,” with over 520,000 symptomatic cases and over 7,000 deaths. Dr. Andrus stated optimistically that water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) can be used to overcome cholera in Haiti; and on January 11, PAHO launched a call-to-action with Haitian President Michel Martelly, the Center for Disease Control, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and other partners for WASH investments.

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