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PAHO Seeks to Restore Service At 10 Key Haitian Hospitals

Washington, DC, March 2, 2004 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) today began assisting the distribution of fuel supplies needed urgently to restore service at 10 Haitian hospitals.

Over the weekend, Haiti’s hospitals were not able to operate because of a lack of energy and water. In addition, there was also a problem with security.

Even though the situation is improving, it’s estimated that some 60 people were injured during disturbances over the last two days.

"PAHO officials are advising on the status of hospitals to gauge their needs and to evaluate the 'cold chains' to handle vaccines. No medical supplies have been lost, except for a small warehouse in the harbor," said Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet, Area Manager of PAHO’s office for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief.

Similar visits – with the support of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance of the U.S. Agency for International Development (OFDA/USAID) -- are scheduled for Wednesday to Cap Haitien, Pignon and Guanamé, three towns in Haiti’s interior.

PAHO is also issuing news bulletins on local radio stations to advise which hospitals are operating. PAHO is also issuing public health messages to the Haitian people.

PAHO's Haiti team is working on the purchase and distribution of medicines requested by PROMESS, the central pharmacy program that has been supplying essential drugs since 1992. Poncelet said that the "priorities continue to be to ensure the distribution of essential medicines and to provide service to the most vulnerable sectors of the population, as well as strengthen the logistical support and reactivate the monitoring centers to identify rumors about outbreaks of diseases – and so be able to react quickly."

PAHO has set up an emergency center at its Washington, D.C., headquarters to coordinate the work of its 12 officials on the ground in Haiti. The members of this team will return to their Port-au-Prince offices Wednesday after several days of operating out of a downtown hotel because of security concerns.

Since the beginning of the Haitian crisis, PAHO officials have asked that all parties in the Haitian conflict respect the neutrality of hospitals and medical centers. The PAHO officials working in Port-au-Prince report that tensions have decreased.

However, despite the crisis last week PAHO was successful – in a joint operation with the Red Cross -- in sending two convoys with medicines and vaccines to the towns of Gonaives and Saint Marc, north of Port-au-Prince.

PAHO experts continue to work on the health care system and with the caregivers who work for non-governmental organizations to ensure the transport of the supply of medicines and equipment.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest public health organization. PAHO works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and the quality of life of people of the Americas. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). PAHO Member States today include all 35 countries in the Americas. France, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are Participating States. Portugal and Spain are Observer States, and Puerto Rico is an Associate Member.

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


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