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US$ 4.2-million health response launched for Haiti

Press release

12 September 2008 | GENEVA/PORT AU PRINCE -- WHO and its partners urgently need US$ 4.2 million to provide health care for many of the 800 000 people - including children and pregnant women - affected by successive tropical storms in Haiti.

During August and September, extreme natural events (hurricanes and flooding) have killed at least 300 people in Haiti, damaged and disrupted health facilities, and displaced thousands. Of those affected, 52% are estimated to be women and 36% children. Elderly people and pregnant women are among the most vulnerable needing care, as are patients with chronic disease and those being treated for HIV and tuberculosis.

Flooding has severely affected several Haitian health facilities, such as hospitals in Gonaive, Port de Paix and Les Cayes, as well as various health centres. There are shortages of drugs, including insulin and anaesthetics, and small surgical materials. The storms have also threatened the security of food supplies, which in turn increases nutritional risks for the population.

"WHO and its health partners have helped Haitian authorities provide emergency medical care where access is possible," said Dr Henriette Chamouillet, WHO's Representative to Haiti. "The situation is particularly serious in Gonaives, where parts of the city remain under water, people have taken refuge in shelters and there is no access to some communities outside the city."

WHO is seeking US$ 1 million to:

  • coordinate the health sector response;
  • implement an epidemiological surveillance system and early warning, vector control measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever; and
  • ensure access to health care in the affected areas by providing essential medicines and supplies to national authorities and the various international partners working in the health sector.

WHO is sending staff from its Geneva headquarters to Haiti to provide logistics support and to ensure medical supplies are delivered to communities cut off by flood waters.

A further US$ 3.2 million is being sought for urgent health projects by WHO partners, including UNICEF, UNFPA, Pharmaciens Sans Frontières Comité International, Médecins du Monde France/Switzerland/Canada.

Priorities are to:

  • ensure continued access to health care of the most affected population, especially vulnerable groups, including pregnant women;
  • provide nutritional support for 250 000 women of childbearing age, 40 000 pregnant women and 130 000 children aged under five years;
  • ensure treatment for people with chronic diseases.

"WHO's objectives are to ensure access to health care is continued at pre-storm levels and to prevent the outbreak of communicable diseases," said Dr Eric Laroche, Assistant Director-General for WHO's Health Action in Crises. "To do this, we will continue to ensure close institutional and technical coordination with the multiple actors working in the health sector."

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Paul Garwood
Communications Officer
Health Action in Crises
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3462
Mobile: +41 794 755546
E-mail: garwoodp@who.int

Daniel Epstein
Communications Officer
WHO Regional Office for the Americas
Washington D.C., USA
Telephone: +1 202 974 3459
E-mail: epsteind@paho.org

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