Now that two months have passed since Haiti's 7.0 earthquake, the first cloudiness of chaos has passed, and so has the frenetic pace of appeals. Yet Haiti's Ministry of Health is still feeling frustrated by the bevy of international organizations that continue to breeze in and out of the country without notice.
In advance of a March 31 donors' conference on Haiti, health officials are scrambling to assemble a better picture of the country's needs -- but the bulk of relief groups aren't exactly cooperating. To assist with medium- and long-term planning, Haiti's Ministry of Health has required all new organizations arriving in Haiti to provide information about how many people would be on the ground, what their skill sets were and for how long they'll stay. Yet even that rudimentary information has been hard to come by.
No one doubts that relief efforts will take a long time: 10 years is one common projection, and frankly the real estimates should be much longer. To avoid constructing many parallel health systems, information to help channel supplies, personnel and equipment to where they're most needed is key -- as is working with the Haitian government to build a more lasting framework.
Prior to the quake, Haiti's Ministry of Health was badly hobbled, and even more so in its aftermath -- some 200 of its people were killed when its building collapsed, while the ministry was lacking vehicles, computers and even pens and paper. But it's no mistake that over the years, one of the most successful health groups in Haiti (Partners in Health) has made a point of giving the government a role in the ownership and operations of its Haitian branch, Zanmi Lasante. Those kinds of relationships are what embed PiH's work in the country for the long haul.
It's not hard to see why Haiti's Ministry of Health would feel frustrated. Take, for example, a March 8 spreadsheet shared by Haiti's health cluster, currently being led by the Pan American Health Organization and the WHO. Titled 'Who, What, Where,' the document chronicles organizations' attempts to assist in Haiti's health sector -- or tries to, anyway. Out of fully 315 organizations -- from Texas Baptist Men to Helping Hand USA -- the majority of details listed for each group (including partnerships, future plans and exit dates) are simply blank.
Hard to take a lead in building up Haiti's health services, when you don't even know who's behind you, where they're located -- or how long they'll stick around. (Or, for that matter in other cases, when you're dismissed outright from where decisions are being made.)
Article by Te-Ping Chen
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