Six-Month Update: The Plan for Haiti

Since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital on January 12, 2010, Direct Relief International has provided over 400 tons of emergency medical assistance worth more than $45.4 million to 53 Haitian healthcare facilities, international medical teams, mobile medical clinics, tent-based hospitals, and medical units at camps for displaced people across the country.

This response has been the largest, most comprehensive, emergency response in our 62-year history. It has been possible because of the outpouring of private financial support and extraordinary engagement from corporate partners with which Direct Relief has long worked.Six months later, the response continues at full force and will require a sustained effort for an extended period.

Direct Relief has provided support in Haiti since 1964 to health facilities in need of medicines, supplies, and equipment to treat patients who lack the financial means to cover the costs of care. These longstanding ties enabled Direct Relief to respond rapidly in the aftermath of the quake and to furnish specifically requested medical materials where they were most needed.

The earthquake exacerbated a chronic problem of limited resources and access to care, with tens of thousands of people who were injured were left to scramble for access to not only medical care but to food, water, and shelter. Because of the infrastructure damage and overwhelming workloads at healthcare facilities, Direct Relief established its own storage and distribution mechanisms in the country to ensure secure delivery of essential health materials. Direct Relief also deployed information systems to manage, track, and report the flow of resources into Haiti and helped develop a comprehensive inventory and mapping of the country’s health infrastructure.

We have received $6.3 million in cash contributions for Haiti and more than $52 million of product contributions intended for Haiti. The cost of delivering this material aid has been over $880,000. In addition, $2 million in cash has been allocated to support disability services, such as prosthetics, orthotics, assistive devices such as wheelchairs, and to support rehabilitative services. Another $500,000 has been devoted to a Community Grant Fund for local Haitian organizations that themselves suffered tremendous losses, undertaken extraordinary efforts, and will play an essential role in the ongoing efforts to recover, rebuild, and serve affected people.

Our goals are to continue emergency assistance needed to care for survivors who have been displaced or disabled by this catastrophic event; infuse resources to support and strengthen the damaged health system as it rebuilds; and assist community-based groups that do essential work but have not had access to resources that have become available.

The Next Six Months

Providing Essential Medicines and Medical Supplies
The earthquake has destroyed many hospitals and clinics across Haiti’s capital, leaving more people in need of medical attention and fewer facilities to go to. The remaining medical facilities are seeing additional patients and require more medicines and supplies to keep their doors open. This increase in demand is felt throughout the country, as large numbers of people have moved out of Port-au-Prince looking for services in other cities.

Community Grants Program
Direct Relief International has created a $500,000 Community Grant Fund to enable Haitian nongovernmental organizations and community groups access to cash grants. These local groups have incurred exceptional costs responding to the earthquake’s aftermath and are essential in delivering services, providing support, and representing the interests of the communities they serve. But because they are not widely known outside of Haiti, they don’t have access to the large amount of international monies raised to assist the Haitian people.

Hurricane Preparedness in a Disaster Zone
For the third year, Direct Relief has prepositioned specially designed Hurricane Preparedness Modules throughout the Caribbean, including eight in Haiti this year. Each module is designed to combat the most common illnesses that occur following a hurricane and will treat approximately 5,000 people for one month. Hurricanes often disrupt water and sanitation systems and interrupt delivery of supplies to healthcare facilities. With hundreds of thousands of people now living in temporary shelters, this year will be especially devastating should a storm make landfall near Port-au-Prince.

Prosthetic and Orthotic Rehabilitative Services
With tens of thousands of people injured, the need for rehabilitative services is at an all-time high. Direct Relief has committed $2 million in cash for long-term rehabilitative services with an emphasis on prosthetic services. Partnering with Healing Hands for Haiti, the country’s premier physical medicine and rehabilitation institution, Direct Relief is funding an additional rehabilitation center to provide recent amputees with a place to do physical therapy and have their newly fitted prosthesis adjusted. This facility allows Healing Hands for Haiti to treat the enormous number of earthquake-affected patients as well as maintain treatment regiments for the pre-earthquake patients.

The Long Term: Investment in Infrastructure

Consistent with our mission to increase access to health services and support permanent healthcare facilities, Direct Relief will invest in permanent facilities and the creation of more robust rehabilitation and prosthetic services to treat not only earthquake victims but the estimated 800,000 Haitian people who were already disabled.

Train the Future Rehabilitation Specialists of Haiti
Before the earthquake struck, Haiti lacked trained prosthetic technicians and physical therapists. To handle the long-term needs of the newly disabled, a cadre of prosthetic technicians and physical therapists must be trained. Working with Healing Hands for Haiti and the Ministry of Health, Direct Relief will fund the training of Haitian healthcare workers in prosthetic and rehabilitative care to ensure that services are available for years to come.

Build an Orthopedic Wing at Haiti’s Second-Largest Hospital
The Justinian University Hospital (JUH) in Cap-Haitian is the country’s second-largest hospital but lacks an orthopedic department. When hospitals still standing in Port-au-Prince were overwhelmed with patients after the earthquake, Justinian University Hospital couldn’t accommodate complicated trauma causes, despite a three-year-old plan to build an orthopedic department. Direct Relief and longtime partner Konbit Sante, which supports JUH and whose mission is to strengthen the public health system through training and capacity-building, will collaborate with the Ministry of Health to establish key trauma services at JUH.

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