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PAHO Director Says Long-Term, Substantive Investments Needed for Health in Haiti

Washington, DC, March 19, 2004 (PAHO)—Director of the Pan American Health Organization Dr. Mirta Roses said today PAHO is supporting Haitian health authorities and all partners to make health services operational, seeking to ensure that children are vaccinated, expectant mothers are protected, essential medicines and critical supplies are delivered to the hospitals and health centers are assisting the neediest during the crisis in the nation.

“Haiti will disappear from the headlines one day but the health problems in that country remain. There is no serious hope for seeing health improvements without long term, substantive investments,” Roses said. “Our people and the whole health team in Haiti are working in difficult conditions, distributing emergency medical kits and essential medicaments, and making sure that the health of Haitians is a top priority among the many pressing needs.”

The PAHO director added, “We have a team on the ground seeking to restore immunization activities, especially for measles and polio. We also want to vaccinate women of child bearing age against neonatal tetanus, provide for humanized birth deliveries, and respond to the need of wounded and sick youngsters and elders. Life is sparkling every day in Haiti, and we need to protect it and work together for a safe tomorrow for every Haitian.”

PAHO has about 70 people in Haiti and is working with numerous partners to restore a functioning health system for the country. “We are part of the United Nations team with responsibility for the health sector. Other agencies such as UNICEF and UNFPA are collaborating with their specific expertise, as are numerous non-government organizations that have been working in Haiti for a long time,” Roses said.

“Many countries have shown continuing solidarity through PAHO to help one of our most affected member countries.” Roses said. If the health system functions well, it will contribute to restoration of society, security and governance, she added.

PAHO is distributing emergency kits for 60,000 people received yesterday from Canada, as well as three surgical kits received from USAID/OFDA. Six tons of medical materials have arrived in the country for distribution by PROMESS, the Haitian central pharmacy. Medicines that had been looted from hospitals in Gonaives have been replenished, and PAHO continues to distribute medical supplies to Port au Prince hospitals, according to PAHO officials in Haiti.

As the most acute part of the emergency phase slowly wanes, many health sector needs will remain, PAHO officials noted, and staff trained in the SUMA supply management system is working in Haiti to facilitate the distribution of medicines and medical supplies. Hospitals are slowly reactivating services, but lack of funds is a limitation. Haiti has 8 million inhabitants, of which 60 percent have access to health services. Most of the population uses the public hospitals. Dr. Josette Bijou was named the new minister of health of Haiti Wednesday.

PAHO’s network of partners in Haiti includes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), UN agencies such as UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNAIDS, non-government organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Medicins du Monde, Oxfam, ICRC, CARITAS, Haitian Red Cross, Centre Development de Sante, Catholic Relief Services, local health authorities and many others.

PAHO was established in 1902 and is the oldest public health organization in the world. It is also the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization and works with all the countries in the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.

For more information, video material, or photographs please contact: Bryna Brennan, Area of Public Information, (202) 974-3457, e-mail: brennanb@paho.org.


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