Haiti’s Minister of Health, Alex Larsen, describes the impact of the Jan. 12 earthquake on the country’s infrastructure and health sector. He says support from partners such as PAHO/WHO for vaccination campaigns and other public health measures helped Haiti avoid epidemic outbreaks, despite the large numbers of people living in temporary settlements. About 75 percent of the infrastructure in three departments was destroyed or seriously damaged, and the country lost important human resources. About 200 students from the main nursing school in the capital were killed in the quake. Current needs are mostly for mid-level personnel, such as vaccination workers and public health inspectors, as well as pharmacist assistants and dental assistants.
Support from Haitians living abroad has been crucial to the recovery effort. “The Haitian diaspora has always helped the country, but after the earthquake, it has been exemplary,” said Dr. Larsen. He said many of the some 600 NGOs working in Haiti are working without coordinating with the Haitian government. “There are many that I don’t see. I hear about them, I see them on TV, international news, I see they receive money for Haiti, but so far I haven’t ‘seen’ them in public health,” he said.