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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Haiti, 3 months after the earthquake: a continuing emergency

The situation remains urgent. 1.3 million people are without shelter and the rainy season will make their living conditions even worse.
Humanitarian and health needs remain huge, especially for those without shelter and for the thousands of people displaced within the country. With a health system that has been completely destroyed, aid for reconstruction and healthcare will be a long term commitment.
The earthquake on the 12th January hit a country with more than half the population living on less than $1.25 a day, 65% unemployed, and a life expectancy not beyond the age of 61.
Doctors of the World (DOW), has had a presence in the country for 25 years, is committed to the people of Haiti in the long term and is continuing its work with the disaster victims of Port-au-Prince, Petit GoĆ¢ve and in Grande Anse.

700,000 people are without shelter in Port-au-Prince.
Sheltered in 400 camps the earthquake victims cram into them and remain extremely vulnerable. There is limited access to water, food and sanitation. Three months after the earthquake, Doctors of the World is still providing daily health care daily in 8 of the districts of Port-au-Prince, based in clinics covering the emergency camp and surrounding area where there are around 10000 - 15000 people.
In large tents erected in the heart of the camps, each team is made up of 10 Haitian staff, everyday they provide:
- General medical consultations : More than 5500 basic health consultations are carried out each week
- Vaccinations for pregnant women and young children.
- Screening for malnutrition in 7 of the clinics. This affects many children: for many the situation was bad before the earthquake, now it is even worse.
- Reproductive health activity (family planning, gynaecological consultations, pre- and post-natal consultations) which make up 20% of the consultations.

"Fok Nou Pale!" - We've got to talk!
A team of some 50 Haitian community workers go to one or two camps every day. They provide a link between the mobile sites and the health care structures. They organise games at workshops for the children but also provide discussion and support groups for the adults.
Doctors of the World staff walk through the camps with megaphone to let everyone know about the free clinics. At the same time it is an opportunity to inform people about disease prevention, hygiene, contraception, as well as about violence and psychosocial support.
"Fok Nou Pale!" In the local patois Magna says, "we've got to talk! It does you good, come and see us at our clinics." Armed with her megaphone, she makes her way, with difficulty, between the tents. "Don't overlook your health! DOW clinics are not only for the injured but for everyone, boy and girl, young and old, and for expectant mothers as well! "
The people of Haiti are affected and will be affected for a very long time. Aftershocks provoke renewed fear, sleeplessness and anxiety attacks. The earthquake has also revealed important psychoses, especially amongst adolescents. After 3 months, certain cases prove the need for psychiatric help but at the moment healthcare provision for this is almost non-existent.

For information more on the following aspects of our work there, please visit our website:

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