Surveillance Systems Find No Major Disease Outbreaks Since Haiti Quake; Media Examine Aid Disbursements

Haitian and U.S. public health experts recently reported that two new surveillance systems set up in Haiti after the January earthquake showed that no major disease outbreaks had developed and that the new systems could be part of the foundation of the country’s health system in the long term, Reuters reports. The findings were published Friday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

“Establishing the networks was one triumph for public health experts and also showed the quick response of aid agencies may have helped prevent an even worse health disaster, the Haitian and U.S. experts said. ‘The earthquake was a terrible disaster. But I really think it was an opportunity that has given them a chance to rebuild parts of their country, especially in the health sector,'” said the CDC’s Erin Sauber-Schatz.

According to Sauber-Schatz, health officials were able to make informed decisions about how to prioritize medical care based on information from the systems. Before the implementation of the systems, Haiti had no capability “of providing timely surveillance on a wide range of health conditions,” officials wrote in the MMWR. “Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, the Pan-American Health Organization, CDC, and other agencies set up the National Sentinel Site Surveillance System, using clinics that were part of [PEPFAR],” Reuters reports, noting that the other network tracked homeless people.

“Nationally, the three most frequently reported specified conditions were acute respiratory infection, suspected malaria, and fever of unknown cause,” researchers wrote in MMWR. “Injuries accounted for 12 percent of reported conditions. No epidemics or disease clusters were detected,” according to the publication (Fox, 8/5). 

News Outlets Report On Aid Disbursement Developments

During a visit to Haiti on Friday, Former President Bill Clinton said international donors are still reluctant to disburse pledges worth billions of dollars for Haiti’s rebuilding, the Associated Press reports. 

Clinton said “he hopes the presentation of $300 million worth of projects at the Aug. 17 meeting of the commission he co-chairs with Haiti’s prime minister will help open their wallets,” the AP writes. “We’re going for very specific projects at the next meeting and then we’re going to make another run at ’em and see what happens,” Clinton said. “We just want to get the show on the road,” Clinton added (Katz, 8/7).

Also Friday, the International Monetary Fund “stressed in a report on Haiti that disbursement of promised donations is crucial for the earthquake-shattered nation’s recovery,” Dow Jones Newswires reports.

“The IMF said disbursements have been slow but that external aid related to the reconstruction could triple as a share of gross domestic product over the next three to five years. Although the IMF board welcomed incipient economic growth in the months following the catastrophe, it said ‘swift disbursement of the resources pledged by donors for reconstruction and steady implementation of the economic program will be crucial to sustain growth,'” the news service writes. The report supported the country’s reconstruction strategy and said Haiti should pursue plans to improve the tracking and reporting of public spending (Talley, 8/6).

The Boston Globe looks at U.S. officials’ emphasis on the rebuilding of Haiti’s government in order to improve the reconstruction effort and the use of aid.

“Across this Caribbean nation, less than 4 percent of the debris has been cleared since the powerful Jan. 12 earthquake, and some 1.6 million people are living in tent camps in the middle of hurricane season, despite $1.8 billion in earthquake aid, according to U.S. government and United Nations figures. Now, under pressure to intensify the aid effort, U.S. officials and others say it is clear that rebuilding Haiti’s government is a vital next step, because the Haitian government is the only entity accountable to all people,” the newspaper writes.

The article looks at the challenges that have arisen because of the absence of a functioning government, noting that some aid has gone directly to nonprofits and private groups because the government is so weak. Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health, and Leon Waskin, director of USAID’s response effort, are quoted in the article (Sacchetti, 8/9).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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