One in two people in Haiti has received Red Cross assistance over the past five years

Topics: Quebec, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
January 08, 2015

Montreal, January 8, 2015 – It has been five years since an earthquake devastated Haiti, leading to the largest single country response in Red Cross history. While much progress has been made following the disaster on January 12, 2010, the Canadian Red Cross continues its long-term recovery efforts to help Haitians rebuild and strengthen their communities. “Five years later, the record of what has been achieved through the support of individual donors, companies, provincial governments and the Government of Canada is impressive. Some five million people have received Red Cross assistance, which means that one in two people in Haiti have been helped,” notes Conrad Sauvé, Secretary General and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross.
 
From disaster to recovery, via sustainable development
In the days and months following the earthquake, $222 million was donated to the Canadian Red Cross, allowing for a sustained effort that continues today. It began immediately following the earthquake, when a response was launched sending aid workers to the region and providing emergency health care, water, tents and tarpaulins. A field hospital was deployed, eventually becoming a cholera treatment centre during a subsequent epidemic that followed.
 
In the recovery effort, some 19,000 families – or 95,000 people - have been provided with safe shelter solutions in the form of either a temporary shelter or financial assistance for housing. Much of the healthcare system in Haiti was severely affected by the disaster, so a significant portion of the Red Cross effort has been focused on that sector. Core activities have included rebuilding the hospital in Jacmel, and restoring services at four health centres serving a population of 600,000.
 
Haiti is a country vulnerable to frequent extreme weather-related disasters and the Haitian Red Cross has an established risk reduction program. Canadian Red Cross efforts have focused on helping to increase regional response capacity through a long-term, sustainable, program that includes training in financial, volunteer and logistics management. The Haitian Red Cross has also been equipped with effective emergency operations centres at their headquarters and other branches.
 
“Nearly 90 per cent of the Canadian Red Cross funding has already been spent. Of the remainder, two-thirds, or $28 million, is earmarked for sustainable healthcare initiatives. The other third will be used mainly to strengthen the Haitian Red Cross and improve its disaster response capacity. This is the biggest operation ever carried out by the Red Cross Movement in a single country,” says Mr Sauvé.
 
A partnership for an integrated healthcare project
From the earliest days following the disaster, health care has been a priority for the Red Cross. In an integrated healthcare project to improve access to healthcare services for vulnerable communities in the Jacmel region, an investment of $35 million is being made to promote access to quality services for mothers, newborns and children, and to make communities more resilient by providing community care and first aid. The Canadian Red Cross and its partners, the Sainte-Justine hospital (CHU), the Unité de santé internationale at the University of Montreal and the Agence de santé et des services sociaux de Montréal, are working with the Government of Haiti and the Haitian Red Cross to implement this healthcare program, which runs until December 2016.
 
“After four years of involvement in this program, we are seeing significant changes at the Saint-Michel hospital: reduced neonatal mortality rates following the adoption of new care practices, different practices in assistance to women in childbirth, reorganized emergency services to ensure better patient care, improvements in the supply of medication from the pharmacy, and the establishment of a maintenance and repair service for medical equipment. As the new building takes shape, staff are getting involved in the changes and taking increasing responsibility for training and skills upgrading. We are there to provide guidance for local staff in improvements that are largely of their own making,” notes Dr Dickens Saint-Vil, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at CHU Sainte-Justine.
 
“From the beginning of the program, the USI’s support has been concentrated on reinforcing the institutional capacity of the Haitian Ministry of Health in the southeastern health district. The health authorities are now in a position to collect reliable and current health data, which are essential for defining public health priorities in the area. Our ultimate goal is to help the health district to institute sound governance and play its part as a regulatory entity in coordinating all healthcare initiatives in the field, particularly those designed for women and children. We firmly believe that it is through the reinforcement of local capacity, and not through replacement initiatives, that a country is able to develop,” notes Lucien Albert, director of the USI.
 
“The Direction sanitaire du Sud-Est, responsible for healthcare delivery in southeastern Haiti, has developed tools and methods for community-based epidemiological monitoring (surveillance épidémiologique à base communautaire – SÉBAC) in cooperation with the public health division (Direction de santé publique – DSP) of the healthcare and social services agency of Montreal, the ASSS. The system is consistent with the approach taken by the Haitian Ministry of Health. During its implementation, the project reached 5,000 families, but its deployment offers a much greater potential, with prospects for improving the health information system in the southeastern district. In the area of health promotion, the southeastern health district is now assisted by a coordination panel that has developed an initial plan of action. With the support of the DSP, it is now in a position to coordinate activities among its partners, harmonize practices and optimize resources,” adds Dr Éric Litvak, Deputy Director, Planning, Teaching and Research, DSP, ASSS de Montréal.
 
About the Canadian Red Cross
Here in Canada and overseas, as in Haiti, the Red Cross stands ready to help people before, during and after a disaster. As a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which is made up of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 189 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the Canadian Red Cross is dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and throughout the world.