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UN Donor Conference: Given the Immense Needs, Haitians Must Have Continued Access to Medical Care
Port-au-Prince / New York, March 30, 2010 – With the majority of the Haitian population still extremely vulnerable, donors attending the United Nations conference in New York on March 31, must not take measures that would limit the populations’ access to health care, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Tuesday.
Since the January 12 earthquake, nearly all public and many private medical structures in the affected areas have offered healthcare free of charge. Recently, however, plans have been disclosed to progressively reinstate hospital fees as early as mid April.
“Making access to health care contingent upon someone’s financial means would totally ignore the reality that we see in the streets and makeshift camps in Haiti,” said MSF emergency coordinator Karline Kleijer. “Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and live in rickety huts made of plastic sheeting, tents or ruined houses, with one latrine for a few hundred people on average. Shelter, hygiene, water and medical care remain a priority need. Short term humanitarian needs remain huge and unmet, and the arrival of the rainy and hurricane seasons threatens to cause further deterioration of the present living conditions. We have already seen large parts of camps collapsing during the recent rains. The collapse or flooding of shelters and tents could force many of the displaced to move again.”
Respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases—both of which are commonly linked to living in unsanitary conditions—are currently the main diseases that MSF treats. Earthquake victims continue to need post-operative and rehabilitative care, physiotherapy and psychological counseling. The population at large also needs obstetric, pediatric, and trauma care.
“Haitians must have access to an efficient health system,” said Dr. Christophe Fournier, MSF international president. “Necessary financial resources for health structures to function can not be drawn from the extremely precarious population.”
International aid must consider a direct financial support to the health system in Haiti. Decisions at the New York conference need to allow the Haitian health system to continue to address the population’s immediate medical needs.
MSF has worked in Haiti for 19 years. Today, some 3,300 Haitian and international MSF staff run hospitals independently and support government hospitals. Since the earthquake, MSF teams have performed more than 4,000 surgeries, provided psychological counseling to over 20,000 people, and treated 53,000 patients. MSF has distributed 14,000 tents and close to 20,000 non-food item kits (including kitchen and hygiene kits, jerry cans, blankets and plastic sheeting). MSF is funding its activities in Haiti exclusively with private donations and is therefore not a stakeholder in the UN the donor conference.