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Aid Begins Flowing Into Haiti, Up To 3M May Be Affected

“Aid started flowing into Haiti Wednesday in the wake of the earthquake that slammed the impoverished nation late Tuesday afternoon,” CNN reports. “One of two [U.S] military cargo planes carrying a 30-man assessment team arrived at Port-au-Prince airport Wednesday evening to assess Haiti’s needs.” The article outlines aid groups’ strategy for coordinating efforts and also lists countries’ contributions to relief efforts (1/14).

The Los Angeles Times writes that “[b]y some estimates, 3 million people were affected by the earthquake, roughly a third of” Haiti’s population (Susman et al, 1/14).

The Associated Press/New York Times reports on the “sweeping [U.S.] military response that included ships, helicopters, transport planes … One of the U.S. Navy’s large amphibious ships, the USS Bataan, was ordered to Haiti with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard.” According to the news service, “An Army brigade … was standing by for possible deployment, and the Pentagon is ‘seriously looking at’ sending thousands of Marines to assist with disaster relief efforts and security in Haiti, [State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley] said” (1/13).

The U.N. “said it was rushing food, personnel and medical supplies to alleviate the ‘major humanitarian emergency,'” according to the Canadian Press. “We’ll be using whatever roads are passable to get aid to Port-au-Prince, and if possible we’ll bring helicopters in,” said Emilia Casella, a spokesperson for the World Food Program. The U.N. also said at least 140 members of its own staff were missing in the capital, Port-au-Prince (Klapper, 1/13).

Despite the aid response, significant challenges remain, according to the New York Times, which reports that international relief groups are “worried that aid could be slowed by damage to the country’s airport, roads and power-supplies.” According to Florian Westphal, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, “The big challenge is going to be getting things unloaded and getting it to the people who need it,” he said. “Only military airplanes that don’t require additional people to unload have been able to land.” Westphal said “little security” was also a concern. The article outlines the challenges facing other aid donors (Cowell, 1/14).

As the depth of the damage in Haiti became clear on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced she was canceling her trip to the Asia-Pacific region so that she could help plan the U.S. response, the Washington Post reports. Clinton “compared [the earthquake] to the 2004 tsunami that rocked Asia. ‘The scope of it is just overwhelming,’ she said,” the Washington Post writes. Clinton added, “The United States is fully committed; the military is fully committed, and we’re going to do everything we can to try and save as many lives and to help bring about an orderly environment in which aid and reconstruction can take place” (1/13).

Politico’s Laura Rozen reports on her blog that the relief effort over the next three days will focus on saving lives, according to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “That is the President’s top priority and is what the President has directed us to do,” he said, adding that the agency had 15 disaster assistance relief team members in Haiti to guide response efforts and conduct surveillance (1/13).

Foreign Policy’s blog, “The Cable,” notes that Shah is “officially leading the U.S. relief effort through the Office of Disaster Assistance.” At a press conference, Shah said, “We are working aggressively and in a highly coordinated way across the federal government to bring all of the assets and capacities we have to bear to quickly and effectively provide as much assistance as possible” (Rogin, 1/13). PBS’ NewsHour features and interview with Rajiv Shah about the U.S. response to the earthquake (1/13).

On Capitol Hill, 14 Senators, including Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling for immediate consideration of “legislation authorizing emergency funds be sent to earthquake-stricken Haiti,” Roll Call reports. “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and lacks the capacity to respond to and recover from a disaster of such scale and scope,” the letter said. “Robust and immediate U.S. assistance to Haiti in the wake of this catastrophe is vital to support stability in that fragile country, and is in our own national security interest” (Brady, 1/13).

News Outlets Examine Public Health Problems In Haiti

In the wake of the earthquake, several news outlets examined the public health implications of the disaster. Summaries of coverage appear below: 

  • Haiti has “some of the worst health indicators in the world,” Richard Besser, ABC News’ senior health and medical editor, said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the population of 9 million already faces high rates of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, viral and respiratory disease” (Escherich, 1/13).
  • MSNBC published a question and answer overview of the situation by Robert Bazell, the network’s chief science and health correspondent. The article highlights the problems now facing the country’s already weak health system. According to Bazell: “Today we learned from Doctors Without Borders that there are no hospitals remaining in Port-au-Prince. All hospitals are either collapsed or abandoned, including the three run by the aid group” (1/13).
  • “There will be significant long-term health effects that this earthquake in Haiti will bring,” according to Foxnews.com‘s Manny Alvarez, who is the managing editor of health for the Web site. “The first one is the public health consequence. Even before the earthquake, Haiti’s public health status was under terrible strain. Haiti still has significant problems with clean water, and dealing with certain diseases like malaria and Dengue fever, which are quite endemic to the area. With further destruction of the water supply, the people of Haiti are going to be at increased risk of developing gastrointestinal diseases, food poisoning, as well as worsening of injuries sustained by those in high-risk groups like children and seniors” (Fiore, 1/13).
  • TIME looks at the expected effect on the health situation in Haiti. “With basic health care and sanitation all but destroyed, and millions of survivors likely left homeless, unchecked infectious disease and contamination will pose a threat to survivors,” according to the publication, which focuses on the impact of poor water sanitation and the spread of infectious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis (Walsh, 1/13).
  • The Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” notes that, apart form the immediate devastation, “longer-term problems [are] brewing as well.” The blog post features quotes from Warren Johnson, a dean at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, “which has long-standing ties to nearby Haiti.” The article also points out that life expectancy in the country is about 60 years and that the annual per capita spending on health care is $96, according to 2006 data from the WHO (Goldstein, 1/13).
  • A second TIME article also looks at the public health implications. “[E]ven on its best day, Haiti is a public-health disaster. No Haitian city has a public sewage system; nearly 200,000 people live with HIV or AIDS, and just half of Haitian children are vaccinated against basic diseases like diphtheria and measles. The quake will make things unimaginably worse,” according to the magazine. “With adequate aid, however, the worst might be averted. The world now rarely sees major outbreaks of infectious disease in the wake of disasters. … Indeed, the sheer amount of international attention on Haiti might ultimately improve its public-health system — as occurred in the Indonesian province of Aceh after the tsunami” (Elliott, 1/13).

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