Humanitarian Health Action

Didier: Helping Haiti meet health needs

I work for the French Ministry of Health, but came to work as a consultant with PAHO/WHO for one month. My areas are water, health care waste, and vector control, meaning the control of mosquitoes and other insects that spread disease.

This is my second time in Haiti. What impressed me, arriving here one month after the earthquake, was seeing a population that was taking charge of itself. People were clearing rubble with no high tech equipment, using very simple tools like shovels, without even knowing if a truck was going to take the debris away. People in the camps are organizing committees to make life better under difficult conditions. They are regaining dignity.

With the consultants that came before me, we put in place a plan for disinfecting the government trucks that deliver water to camps. This is financed by PAHO/WHO. We also did the water analysis to ensure the water sources we are using have clean water. We are helping re-launch the local water analysis lab, including financing to buy the chemicals and to launch a partnership with other labs in the Caribbean.

I also on an often neglected but important area: waste from health care facilities. Some of it is dangerous, like scalpels and needles, or culturally shocking like wound dressing or anatomical parts from operations. This all must be disposed of properly. After the emergency, a system was set in place. Now we are looking at the hospitals' ability to continue to manage the waste.

This week I participated in a joint-UN evaluation mission to investigate the result of the flooding in the south. We flew over the town of Baradere by helicopter but couldn't land because of the flooding. We saw that the town was covered in mud. There were no victims, but families had to leave their homes. The city will have to be cleaned to remove mud from streets and homes. We will also need to feed and supply these families. These people experienced an earthquake and floods within a few weeks. It really makes me think how we have to keep up the international support and not slow our efforts.