Our team evaluates a woman after Hurricane Mathew
International Medical Corps’ seven-year response in Haiti has now come to a close. We first arrived in Haiti on January 13, 2010 to provide emergency medical care and support health facilities after the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island on January 12. Since then, our focus has been addressing Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which broke out just nine months after the earthquake, and on helping communities build back better in the wake of disaster and disease.
When we reflect on our work over the past seven years, we think first of the 230,000 people who lost their lives during the earthquake and the 4,856 more who lost their lives to the first wave of cholera, which infected 283,362 people October 2010 to April 2011. Though the suffering of these events remains present in our minds today, what we will remember most about Haiti is the resilience of its people—their courage in the wake of tragedy and their commitment to building a brighter future.
While poverty and political strife still fog the road ahead, it has been International Medical Corps’ mission since we arrived to leave Haiti’s health care system on a more solid footing. By training thousands of local health staff so that they can be their own best First Responders, building sustainable infrastructure, and educating communities on proper sanitation and hygiene practices, we believe we have. Below are some of the highlights of our work.
We arrived in Haiti within 22 hours of the 2010 earthquake. We set up an initial base of operations at the Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti, the largest hospital in Port-au-Prince. Volunteer doctors and nurses worked around the clock to save lives and heal the injured. At the peak, our 408 medical volunteers saw as many as 1,000 patients a day, while at the same time training over 1,505 local health care providers.
Within two weeks, we established 13 primary health clinics in displacement camps and earthquake-affected areas, which provided over 340,000 medical consultations. We also launched an innovative emergency medicine development program at the Hôpital de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti that trained more than 300 Haitian physicians and nurses in nearly every component of emergency care delivery.
When cholera broke out nine months later, International Medical Corps was one of the very first organizations to respond, and had medical staff on the ground in Artibonite—where the first cases developed—days before the outbreak was even confirmed to be cholera. Our teams aggressively rolled out a network of 10 cholera treatment centers and mobile medical units in Haiti’s most remote and affected areas, providing care to more than 39,700 cholera patients. At the height of the outbreak in the South Department, where 14% of cholera cases were resulting in death—much higher than the national average—International Medical Corps provided surge support and trained local staff in the area’s two largest treatment centers. Just one month later, the fatality rate fell to 2.5%, and two months later, it was less than 1%.
Because cholera was a new disease for the country, the majority of Haiti’s health workers had never seen it before. We therefore trained and mentored more than 1,200 doctors, nurses, and community health workers within the first year of the outbreak. These trained health workers helped staff our network of cholera treatment centers, and ultimately allowed us to turn over the network over to the national health system—ensuring that cholera prevention and treatment would be part of the country’s long-term healthcare infrastructure. In addition, in various parts of the country, we rehabilitated infrastructure to ensure access to safe water and sanitation, distributed more than 765,000 hygiene and sanitation materials, and educated 2 million Haitians on cholera prevention.
Since 2011, International Medical Corps has continued to focus on cholera preparedness and treatment as the disease persisted. We established prevention and treatment programs in vulnerable locations in Haiti, and, when Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 resulted in a spike of new cases, we responded with rehydration services, treatment centers, training and education. Following Hurricane Matthew, we supported a mass vaccination campaign that reached more than 735,000 people.
International Medical Corps’ other work in Haiti over the past seven years includes integrating mental health into primary health care services, rehabilitating hygiene infrastructure, screening and treating young children for malnutrition, and more. As highlights, since 2010 our teams have distributed more than 300,000 water purifying tablets to families; built over 600 latrines and showers; trained more than 630 doctors and nurses how to identify, treat, and refer mental health disorders; screened over 160,000 children for malnutrition; and provided medication, education, outreach and treatment to some 1.6 million people.
Overall, from October 2010 to October 2017, cholera infected an estimated 817,000 men, women and children, and killed 9,722. However, cholera may be on the wane today in Haiti thanks to the collective and dedicated efforts of International Medical Corps, other international and domestic organizations, the Ministry of Health, local medical staff, and the Haitian people themselves. From January through October 2017, there were 11,916 suspected cases of cholera and 118 deaths, compared to 35,203 cases and 369 deaths for the same period in 2016—a decrease of 66% and 68% respectively over 12 months.
As International Medical Corps responds today to the tragic cholera epidemic unfolding in Yemen—where one million people have been affected—we remind ourselves of what we and the global community have been able to accomplish in Haiti.
We sincerely thank the GlobalGiving community for their support of our work in Haiti over the past seven years. Your generosity helped save the lives of Haitians and build the capacity of the country’s health care system in the aftermath of natural disasters. Together we have been able to make a difference.
Nurse Christine, a member of a mobile medical team
Our staff treats a boy after the 2010 earthquake