|PAHO: Haiti Relief Efforts Continue to Face Major Obstacles|
A clearer picture of health challenges has emerged, but aid efforts are still not satisfactory
Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2009 (PAHO) — Six days after the earthquake in Haiti, relief efforts are overcoming some initial communication and logistics problems, but "we are not satisfied with our ability to get health services to those who urgently need them," said the Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Dr. Jon Andrus. "We are aiming for an A+, but we are not there."
"On the ground, communication and transportation remain incredibly difficult," said Dr. Andrus. "Scarcities of the bare necessities, such as food, water, and fuel, are everywhere. Rubble and dead bodies clog the streets….These conditions are imposing enormous difficulties in managing the supply and distribution of the massive amounts of aid that generous people and organizations are pouring into the country."
A clearer picture of the quake's health impact and of survivors' current health needs is emerging, said Dr. Andrus. Assessment teams coordinated by PAHO/WHO are visiting hospitals and healthcare facilities to determine where essential health services are still available and what is needed to restore them elsewhere.
As head of the United Nations' inter-agency coordinating mechanism known as the Global Health Cluster, PAHO/WHO is also gathering and disseminating information on the arrival of field hospitals and other mobile health services that are part of the massive international relief effort.
PAHO/WHO's SUMA system, which helps coordinate the distribution of humanitarian supplies, has been set up at the Port-au-Prince airport.
Details about the health situation include:
During his press briefing, Dr. Andrus acknowledged reports of bodies being buried in mass graves, which he said should always be avoided after any disaster.
"I want to reiterate that there is no risk of a communicable disease outbreak or any other public health threat associated with the presence of dead bodies…. It is important to respect the rights of families to know the fates of their lost loved ones. Reports of dumping bodies into mass graves are disheartening. PAHO/WHO is making every effort to prevent such misguided efforts."
PAHO/WHO's headquarters in Haiti's capital were partially destroyed by the quake. The 52-person staff normally assigned to Haiti has been augmented by a team of 20 international experts deployed from other countries in the Americas and elsewhere. They are now working out of a medical warehouse near the airport in Port-au-Prince, a new field office in Jimaní along the border with the Dominican Republic, and from the PAHO/WHO country office in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.
PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world's oldest public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization