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Haiti Rebuilding Assessment Calls For Health Improvements; U.S., International Donors Continue Long-Term Reconstruction Efforts

“An assessment [for rebuilding Haiti after the January earthquake] prepared by foreign experts for the U.N. … calls for a system that guarantees universal access to primary care, quality services and essential medication,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

The assessment “recommends ‘massive investment’ in training for Haitian medical professionals and decentralization of care, which has been concentrated in the capital while neglecting the rest of the country,” the newspaper writes in a story examining Haiti’s healthcare infrastructure now that many of the medical aid workers that were in the country immediately after the quake have left.

“The health ministry is still in shambles; more than half of medical professionals are living in tents. Doctors without Borders, the nonprofit medical group, runs at least 500 of the 1,600 hospital beds in Port-au-Prince. The capital’s General Hospital has more foreign than local medical staff,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The article includes quotes from a PAHO official, a Haitian health ministry employee and aid workers (Jordan, 3/19).

Meanwhile, while the response to the earthquake shifts from a “short-term emergency response to long-term rebuilding,” USAID has “established an interagency task force to coordinate work,” Government Executive reports. “The Haiti Task Team, announced late last week, will replace the initial Response Management Team and includes military service members, and representatives of the Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and State departments. Paul Weisenfeld of USAID will lead the group” (Lambertson, 3/18).

On Thursday, two senior Treasury Department officials said the Obama administration is getting close to a final agreement with other nations to cancel Haiti’s debt to the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Associated Press/ABC News reports.

According to the officials – who “spoke on condition of anonymity” ahead of the bank’s annual meetings, which begin Friday in Cancun, Mexico – a final deal should come this weekend. “The Cancun conference will be attended by representatives from Latin American and Caribbean nations as well as the United States and China, two major donor countries to the Washington-based lending institution,” the AP/ABC News writes (Crutsinger, 3/18).

Also on Thursday, Luis Moreno, who heads the IADB, said there was a lot of support among donors to cancel Haiti’s debt of $1.2 billion, according to Reuters. “Most of our shareholders have expressed a desire to do a debt relief of the outstanding amount owed by Haiti, of which the IADB has $441 million,” Moreno said. He added, “I think we will come to a conclusion on how to do that debt relief” (Wroughton, 3/18).

At the conclusion Wednesday of a two-day meeting of donors, lenders, U.N. agencies and aid groups, as well as representatives of Haiti’s government, a statement announced that a target of $3.8 billion would be given to Haiti over the next 18 months to help rebuild the country, Reuters/Washington Post reports. The meeting was held ahead of a donors conference in New York on March 31, according to the news service. “The World Bank’s director for the Caribbean, Yvonne Tsikata, described $3.8 billion as an ‘initial figure’ contained in the [Post-Disaster Needs Assessment] PDNA document draft,” that came out of the meeting held in the Dominican Republic, Reuters reports (Jimenez, 3/18).

Former Presidents Bush, Clinton To Visit Haiti

“Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will visit Haiti together Monday, their first joint visit to the disaster zone,” writes the Dallas Morning News (Gillman, 3/19). The former presidents have been overseeing a “relief fund for the country after it suffered a devastating earthquake in January,” The Hill’s “Washington Scene” reports. “Clinton’s office said details about the trip are forthcoming, but that the two former presidents would be accompanied by the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund’s Board of Directors, which includes former White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)” (O’Brien, 3/18). 

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.