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PAHO Asks Respect for Health Centers in Haiti Crisis

Washington, DC, February 23, 2004 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is asking all factions in Haiti to respect the neutrality of hospitals and health centers, some of which have been affected by armed incursions that have driven away health workers and patients, according to PAHO officials.

The Organization has been working to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, coordinating the provision of medical supplies to hospitals in affected areas and strengthening support for the health system, said Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet, head of PAHO's Program on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief. PAHO, which has an office in Haiti, has taken the lead in health sector activities in coordination with other UN agencies on non-government organizations, working through its emergency operations center in Port-au-Prince.

 Hospital in Haiti
Situation at a hospital in Port de Paix, in northern Haiti.
"The priorities now are to ensure that essential drugs and services continue to be provided to the most vulnerable segments of the population, to strengthen logistical support, and to reactivate sentinel sites so we can get data on specific diseases and monitor hospitals," Poncelet said.

Haiti's central pharmacy, PROMESS, which has been supplying essential drugs for Haiti since 1992, is being strengthened and PAHO is working closely with the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, CARE, and other organizations to assure continuing supplies of medicaments. Canada, which is contributing $1.15 million in humanitarian assistance to Haiti, will dedicate $350,000 for PROMESS. The U.S. Agency for International Development has contributed $400,000, along with 12 medical and 3 surgical kits, and the U.S. has also contributed $1 million for the OAS Special Mission in Haiti.

PAHO's experts continue to work with health system and non-government organization care providers, training health care providers in security, together with the Red Cross, and working to ensure transport of supplies of medicine and equipment, PAHO officials said. Critical needs are fuel to keep generators and water systems in health facilities operating, and propane to keep refrigerated vaccines cool, PAHO staff in Haiti said.

PAHO is assessing the needs in main public and private hospitals, and its experts are supporting the country in humanitarian crisis management. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the European Union's humanitarian aid office have funded epidemiological surveillance projects.

The Pan American Health Organization, established in 1902, is the world's oldest public health organization, working with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples and serving as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For more information, video material, or photographs please contact: Daniel Epstein, Office of Public Information, (202) 974-3459, e-mail: epsteind@paho.org.