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Health and Hope in Haiti

  • July 15, 2009

Disasters and disease are facts of life in Haiti. Located in a major hurricane belt, the country is often barraged by fierce wind and rain. With three out of four Haitians living in abject poverty, they do not have the resources to recover from devastating storms and disease outbreaks.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, also has the worst health conditions of the Americas:

  • the highest infant and maternal mortality rates
  • the highest malnutrition rates, and
  • the highest rates of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Despite their troubles, Haitians remain hopeful for healthy, happy families. They just need a little help – especially in the face of deadly diseases and natural disasters.

Last year, the country sustained blows from four back-to-back storms – Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and Tropical Storms Fay and Hanna.

Hundreds died, 10,000 homes were destroyed and up to 90% of crops were lost in some areas. Today, there are 4 million people – mostly children – at risk for malnutrition as a result of the 2008 hurricane season.

“To make matters worse, ecological problems have left Haiti with little vegetation to stop hurricane flood waters. When last year’s storms hit, the flooding and mudslides were catastrophic,” reports Christoph Gorder, AmeriCares Vice President of Emergency Response. “Nearly one million people were affected by the destruction.”

In response to the disasters, AmeriCares sent a series of deliveries to Haiti including an emergency airlift of critical medical aid and disaster relief supplies. Medical aid was then distributed throughout the countryside, enough to help nearly 80,000 people. To combat children’s malnutrition, AmeriCares teamed with partners at one of the country’s leading emergency nutrition centers.

“We’ve worked in Haiti for 25 years and have long standing ties to help us get things done efficiently and effectively,” says Gorder. “We regularly ship basic medical aid and have emergency relief supplies ready to be delivered  when a disaster strikes.”

Warehouses near Miami and New York City are reserved for rapid response to Haiti and the region. The warehouses store AmeriCares “disaster pharmacies” which can be deployed within days, sometimes hours if need be. The pharmacies include medical aid needed in times of disaster including antibiotics, pain relievers, bandages, topical creams, flashlights and personal hygiene items.