As Haiti marks the two-year anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake, International Medical Corps continues its lifesaving humanitarian programs in the country while calling for sustained public attention and donor commitment. Having delivered a comprehensive emergency response during the acute phases of the disaster, the organization is now focusing on cholera treatment and management as well as disaster preparedness for the country’s local and national health infrastructure.
“We are extremely concerned that half a million people still live in camps, access to water and sanitation is limited and cholera is still endemic,” said Sean Casey, International Medical Corps country director in Haiti. “We are optimistic about the government and its leadership, and about the future in Haiti. But we are also realistic, and recognize that building institutions and increasing capacity to provide for 10 million Haitian citizens will take time. We call on the international community to honor its commitments to Haiti.”
International Medical Corps was delivering lifesaving medical care within 22 hours of the earthquake and has since provided more than 340,000 medical consultations through a network of health clinics. The organization also operated programs in nutrition, mental health care, water, sanitation and hygiene and launched a multi-faceted response following the cholera outbreak in October 2010. Since the earthquake, International Medical Corps has worked in six of Haiti’s ten departments, with one of the largest cholera response programs in the country. In addition to establishing 37 cholera treatment sites where nearly 40,000 patients received lifesaving treatment, International Medical Corps trained 1,205 local healthcare providers in cholera care, distributed more than 765,000 hygiene and sanitation materials, and educated more than 2 million Haitians on cholera prevention.
International Medical Corps’ focus on water and sanitation projects also laid the foundation necessary for Haiti to prevent cholera outbreaks in the long-term, through construction of latrines, hand-washing stations, and waste disposal systems across urban and rural locations. The organization is now the only major cholera treatment service provider in the South Department of Haiti.
At every step of the disaster response International Medical Corps has been training local staff and working to build sustainable local capacity. The 2010 earthquake demonstrated critical gaps in disaster response capability, exacerbated by loss of infrastructure. International Medical Corps’ commitment to rebuilding Haiti’s shattered health services includes ensuring that the country is prepared for future disasters and emergencies. The organization is rebuilding capacity within the L’Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti (HUEH), the country’s main training hospital in Port-au-Prince. Through funding from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, International Medical Corps has trained more than 300 Haitian physicians, nurses, and medics to provide emergency care and respond to future disasters.
In early December, International Medical Corps organized a disaster drill attended by approximately 100 medical volunteers practicing advanced techniques on minimizing deaths from large-scale disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes. Volunteers included medics from Port-au-Prince’s fire department and the Haitian Red Cross; physicians and nurses from HUEH; and international disaster experts from International Medical Corps. The simulation successfully incorporated several different agencies that had previously never trained for disasters together.
“In a disaster situation, these agencies will have to pool resources in order to meet the immediate needs of the population,” said international disaster response specialist, Dr. Gerard DeMers. “This is especially evident when critical health services and institutions are impacted by disasters.”
International Medical Corps’ training programs have coincided with rehabilitation of the emergency department at HUEH and distribution of essential medical equipment. International Medical Corps recently introduced the use of emergency ultrasound technology to 85 physicians at HUEH. Ultrasound technology used during emergency medical care can result in immediate identification of injury minimizing critical time needed to save lives. Previously, doctors in HUEH’s emergency department would have had to refer injured patients to the radiology department to seek an ultrasound, meaning frequent delays due to high demand and limited operating hours.
“Ultrasound is a key aid in resource-constrained environments, functioning as an immediate diagnostic tool for a wide range of emergencies,” said Dr. Ross Donaldson, International Medical Corps’ Global Head of Emergency and Disaster Care. “There is no doubt that the introduction of this ultrasound training program and technology will lead to many lives saved in Haiti.”
In addition to running disaster preparedness trainings, cholera response and health care programs in Haiti International Medical Corps has also:
• Trained 1,505 health care providers
• Screened nearly 150,000 children for malnutrition
• Built nearly 600 latrines and showers
• Educated 30,162 Haitians on hygiene and sanitation
• Educated more than 2 million Haitians on cholera prevention