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PAHO Seeks To Restore Health Services in Haiti

Washington, DC, March 3, 2004 (PAHO)—The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says it is essential for Haiti to restore its health services based on its existing infrastructure, to the extent possible under the current conditions of instability.

"Haiti had an infrastructure, however limited, prior to this crisis, and efforts should be focused on putting that infrastructure back on its feet," said Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet, Area Manager of PAHO's office for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief. "We don't need to set up field hospitals, but rather concentrate on working with people who were already in the health services, as well as with nongovernmental organizations and other sectors."

On Tuesday, PAHO began helping with the distribution of fuel supplies needed urgently to restore service at ten Haitian hospitals.

Some private hospitals in Haiti are slowly restoring their services, but the effects of the current crisis are having a major impact on public hospitals. "We are making use of our entire team in Haiti, plus other PAHO resources, to help the health sector," said Dr. Lea Guido, representative in Haiti for PAHO and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Only about 60 percent of Haiti's 8 million people have access to any kind of health care services. The bulk of the population relies on public hospitals.

PAHO has a 12-member team of emergency experts who have been on the ground in Haiti since the beginning of the crisis. The team is coordinating its work with PAHO's office in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

In a related development, the United Nations today made a Flash Appeal from its Geneva offices calling for urgent aid for Haiti from the international community.

"The objective of the Flash Appeal is to respond to urgent and immediate needs of the Haitian population and to quickly establish the basis for rehabilitation of social services and economic recovery," said the U.N. statement.

The U.N. appeal said the most urgent needs are in the areas of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and public security. It added that "projects to facilitate recovery are those that seek to restore stocks, rehabilitate infrastructures, and build capacities, advocacy, disarmament and conflict resolution."

PAHO is issuing news bulletins on local radio stations to let people know which hospitals are operating and transmitting public health messages to the Haitian people.

PAHO's Haiti team is working to procure and distribute medicines requested by PROMESS, the central pharmacy program that has been supplying essential drugs since 1992. Poncelet said 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 to strengthen logistical support and reactivate monitoring centers to identify rumors about outbreaks of diseases - to be able to react quickly."

Since the beginning of the Haitian crisis, PAHO officials have called on all parties in the conflict to respect the neutrality of hospitals and medical centers.

PAHO experts are working with members of the health care system and nongovernmental organizations to ensure delivery of medical supplies and equipment to the most affected areas. 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.


Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
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