In Haiti One Year After The Earthquake, Life Goes On

In Haiti One Year After The Earthquake, Life Goes On

January 12, 2011 marks the one year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I have the good fortune of visiting MSH’s USAID-funded SDSH (Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti) project team in Port-au-Prince this week, and I traveled out into the city to see the devastation the earthquake caused.

Rubble and dust in Haiti a year after the earthquake.

It has been a catastrophic year for Haitians. The Haitians themselves say this, a people who are used to dealing with poverty, combined with yearly hurricanes, and near constant political instability. However, one thing has been made clear to me in the past few days that I have been on this island: Life Goes On.

From the piles of rubble, small stands appear selling mangoes and pineapples, sunglasses, and belts. Children in uniforms move to and from their schools, some whose school is now just the foundation where their classrooms once stood. The public market along the waterfront bustles with people selling fruits, vegetables, clothes, and other wares. An entire street is full of young men fixing cars. They are inflating flat tires, replacing cracked head lights, and changing oil. Parents are going to work and caring for children; children are going to school and getting together for a game of soccer. Lives have been made, however difficult, in the tent camps housing 30,000 or 50,000 people. Water stands have been set up; latrines line the outer edges of the camps. People move with purpose.

Shops near Port-au-Prince, Haiti

So too, life goes on for the SDSH network of health organizations. 27 NGOs continue to provide maternal and child health, preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), and HIV services to nearly half of the Haitian population. In the past year, SDSH has continued the expansion of performance-based financing from the private sector to the public sector. Data still streams in from all of the supported facilities, reporting how many children they have vaccinated and how many prenatal consultations they have given.

Providing health services in the temporary camps.

Not only has the project continued with its predetermined tasks, but it is evolving to meet the ever changing needs of the population. The only conference room in the office has transformed into a storage area for oral rehydration salts, bleach, buckets, and bottled water. Today, those materials were packed into trucks and delivered to the sites where MSH is helping battle the cholera epidemic.

As the country braces for the results of the presidential election, our colleagues come to work each day prepared to take on the challenges that face them.  They are helping provide critical support and life saving health care to their countrymen and women.

Kate Dilley is an Administrative Coordinator at Management Sciences for Health.