Health Crisis in Haiti

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Long before the disastrous 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, the Caribbean Island ‘s population was battling a devastating health epidemic. For decades, the people of Haiti have fallen victim to often lethal diseases and infections: HIV/AIDS, malaria, meningitis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and cholera— just to name a few. Now, in 2010, Haitians not only have to rebuild their lives after the world around them has crumbled, but more importantly they have to fight to save the ones they love as health conditions grow exponentially worse during the current crisis.

As the poorest country in the Americas, it is estimated that Haitian people were living off of $2 per day before the earthquake struck the island, according to the Haitian Connection Organization website. The extreme poverty and poor living conditions coupled with political unrest contribute to the pervasive health problems that plague the Haitian people. The World Health Organization even went so far as to say that Haiti has the “worst health care system in the world.”

Since the fatal earthquake struck, health and safety concerns are skyrocketing. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, doctors failed to show up to hospitals and thousands of patients were left waiting for help. Fortunately, the World Health Organization reports that 1,000 doctors from around the world soon came to volunteer their time, talents, and materials to the crisis. However, even with the aid of these caring volunteers, there is still a deficit of resources to be able to help everyone.

A lack of proper medical space, supplies, and equipment combined with such a high quantity of patients is intensifying the situation. Medical supplies simply cannot be delivered fast enough to keep up with the demand and flow of patients. Even when supplies do arrive, it is difficult to distribute them quickly since the country’s infrastructure has been demolished. Since medical supplies and medications are low, doctors have been forced to perform amputations on broken arms, broken legs, and other limb ailments to prevent infection rather than being able to treat the wounds.

Even after doctors are able to help an individual, the patients have nowhere to go after leaving the medical tents—many find themselves in makeshift camps with no food or clean water. The unsanitary conditions in these camps are only compounding the health issues as more and more disease spreads among the Haitian people. The fear and despair felt by the hopelessness of the health care situation is vast. One Haitian man, Eugette Thimo, interviewed by the Miami Herald, even said, “When the international doctors leave here, I will die.”

The future of Haiti’s health care is still greatly unknown. Medical and nursing schools in Haiti were destroyed in the earthquake and volunteer doctors must return home eventually. Haiti now faces the overwhelming challenge of building a stable health care system that never existed while simultaneously rebuilding their world.

 

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Featured picture was taken from user IFRC on www.flickr.com , which is permitted according to the Creative Commons liscence. The original picture can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifrc/4309204359/.