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PAHO Says Haiti Needs 'Intensified Action for Health'

Washington, DC, March 22, 2004 (PAHO)—"Intensified action for health," restoration of water systems and quick repair of health facilities are all urgently needed to relieve the suffering of people in Haiti, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) experts said today.

Although the acute emergency phase in Haiti seems to be ending, the current crisis has disrupted Haitians' access to essential health care and interrupted key public health programs such as immunization, HIV/AIDS prevention, and tuberculosis control, said Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet, who heads PAHO's Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Coordination unit, and who just returned from Haiti.

Poncelet said a series of actions are needed to prevent catastrophic ill-health over the next six months. These include: Enabling access to essential health services in key facilities, improving confidence in health services including their security environment, emergency repairs to main water systems in large cities, and restoration of "life-saving public health programs" such as replacing vaccine equipment that was looted and critical stocks of medical supplies, medicines, and laboratory reagents.

"In the current circumstances, the main threat to people's lives and well-being are infectious diseases, lack of access to emergency health care, and shortage of treatment and essential medicines for persons with chronic conditions," Poncelet said.

Health authorities also need support in the medium and long-term to establish a functioning health sector in Haiti, which is a central element of the plan for recovery, he added.

Poncelet was in Haiti representing PAHO in a United Nations assessment mission, and was at PAHOís office in Port-au-Prince, where about 70 of the Organizationís staff are working with numerous partners to restore a functioning health system for the country. He said the PAHO/WHO staff "has accomplished a huge task by remaining operational all through the crisis," but noted that it might take several months to return health services back to normal.

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, 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: Daniel Epstein, Office of Public Information, (202) 974-3459, e-mail: epsteind@paho.org.


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