Haiti: Beyond survival, health crisis looms

Haiti: Beyond survival, health crisis looms
# 18 January 2010 20:53 (UTC +04:00)
Baku. Ayaz Abdulla – APA. Surviving the massive quake that rocked Haiti was just the beginning, APA reports quoting CNN. Experts say the new dangers -- among them, deaths from untreated wounds and disease outbreak -- may be compounded by Haiti’s old problem: poverty.
"That creates a lot of challenges," said David Gazashvili, emergency team leader in Haiti for the humanitarian group CARE, "because Haiti is a country that’s in a chronic emergency in terms of food insecurity, in terms of access to clean water, in terms of income."
Giuseppe Annunziata, the World Health Organization’s emergency coordinator for Haiti, says the "big earthquake, right in the capital of a very poor and fragile state," created a humanitarian nightmare because basic health care services have "completely collapsed."
"It’s compounded by the fact that the state structure is so severely hit and the existing humanitarian structure has also been severely hit," Annunziata said. "And we have to deal with that."
Many victims could die from wounds that under normal circumstances would be easily treatable; a lack of food and clean water raises concerns over disease outbreaks. And people who were getting treatment for HIV and other chronic diseases no longer have access to care.
"People suffering from cancer, people who need dialysis and even moms who need to deliver their kids -- all these things are being affected by this emergency," said Paul Garwood, a spokesman for the WHO’s Health Action in Crises team.
Health officials are working to stem a humanitarian crisis: As Garwood puts it, "How do we best provide the type of care that we have access to and that is needed in a setting that has such huge needs and has been so hugely destroyed?"
The most immediate concern, he says, is providing emergency care to the wounded. "If you have untreated wounds, then you have the risk for infection, and infection of wounds is a major secondary cause of death."
From there, with tens of thousands of people left homeless, health concerns range from diarrheal disease, respiratory infection and cholera to meningitis and even H1N1 flu.
"Clean water is a big problem, and it’s another concern for health, which may create a lot of problems with diarrhea and other acute water-borne illnesses," Gazashvili said.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with a population of 9.7 million. In 2007, 55 percent of the population lived in households making less than $1 per day, according to the WHO.
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