Even before an earthquake devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010, the U.S. was working with the Haitian Ministry of Health and a variety of other agencies within Haiti in strengthening the country's weak health systems, said USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg during a recent teleconference.
"And then with the earthquake, the dynamics shifted dramatically ... to programs to assist the victims of the disaster," said Mr. Steinberg. "In addition to the humanitarian relief efforts, however, we have been engaged over the course of the past year in trying to build health systems ... and also to extend health systems throughout the rest of the country."
A year after the disaster, and despite numerous obstacles, including an outbreak of cholera, there has been real progress in preventing, tracking, and responding to public health threats, immunizing the population and rebuilding Haiti's public healthcare system, noted Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control.
Since the earthquake with U.S. support, one million people have been immunized against highly communicable diseases, targeted food aid is being distributed to approximately 1.9 million of Haiti’s most food-insecure, and USAID partners distributed 800,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria and other insect-borne diseases.
And the U.S. has set up health facilities throughout the country, using in large part facilities supported by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. Since it first began operations in Haiti in 2004, PEPFAR has established a network of 149 prevention, treatment, and care sites that quickly mobilized to provide earthquake response in the initial weeks, all the while continuing to provide HIV/AIDS services.
USAID has been another important presence in Haiti, both before and after the earthquake. Through its implementing partners, USAID’s network of 147 sites throughout Haiti was providing health services to 50 percent of the population before the earthquake, and the agency is currently working to expand that coverage.
Going forward, as part of the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. will also provide care for people with disabilities, continue to support child protection, and offer comprehensive health services, including maternal child health and family planning services.
"No doubt that there is still much work to be done. ... [But] I think this anniversary, one year post-earthquake, should serve as a reminder that progress can be made," said U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Dr. Eric Goosby. "In the coming year, the U.S. Government will continue to support its longstanding AIDS programs, while simultaneously supporting the Haitian Ministry of Health’s efforts to build its primary healthcare system."