Audio update on medical and relief situation in Haiti

For a very informative update on the medical and relief situation in Haiti, you can listen at the link below to a 50-minute conference call held March 26 by Partners in Health. At the very least, we recommend you read the quotations below by PIH representatives who were on the call.

For Immediate Release

March 26, 2010

Contact: Andrew Marx, (617) 998-8977

Meredith Eves, (617) 998-8945

Partners In Health’s Medical Director and Director of Advocacy and Policy Urge Donor Countries to Support the
Haitian Government

Call for Accountability and Transparency

BOSTON – On a press conference call earlier today, Partners In Health’s Medical Director Joia Mukherjee and Director of Policy and Advocacy Donna Barry called on donor nations to structure and deliver aid in a timely way that encourages transparency and accountability, while matching the needs the Haitian Government has already articulated for itself, including direct budgetary support. The press conference was held in advance of an important UN Donors’ Conference scheduled to take place on March 31. As of two weeks ago only 15 percent of the aid pledged at an earlier UN donor conference for Haiti in March 2009 had actually been met. Mukherjee and Barry also highlighted the ongoing urgent needs for health care, food, clean water, adequate sanitation, shelter and schools, both in the temporary settlements across Port-au-Prince and in the countryside where thousands of displaced people have fled.

Partners In Health has already launched its own $125 million, three-year “Stand With Haiti” plan to provide medical care and social services to earthquake survivors, capacitate the public health system, and strengthen the public medical and nursing education system in Haiti.

A link to the full audio of the call:…

Please see below for key quotes:

Donna Barry on importance of transparency: “We need to make sure that we’re really being transparent and completely accountable for all the aid that is being given. We need to make sure that from the pledge next week, to the health service that will be provided in Haiti, that we can track that money and then track it back up to show the results of the effort…Haitians that are receiving the aid must have input into determining what their needs, are as well as providing a mechanism for them to communicate that if the aid that was pledged is not arriving, or is not appropriate, that they can channel their feedback in through a formal mechanism. It sounds fairly straightforward, it sounds like this is how it should be – it’s not. And that’s the message we’re trying to get across to folks.”

Donna Barry on U.S. foreign aid reform: “We have a perfect opportunity to do things better than they were done in the past. If we lose this opportunity, it would be a huge disappointment. Despite the best efforts of organizations who have been working in Haiti for decades and despite the best efforts of the United States to help other countries develop, we haven’t been terribly successful, especially in Haiti. This gives us a platform to really change the way things are done and to really involved the Haitian government and the Haitian people themselves in this response.”

Donna Barry on outcomes from the UN donor conference on March 31: “We are really hoping the major donors – the United States, France, Canada and the EU – will channel resources to match the needs of the plan the Haitian government has developed, and that we can engage the government and Haitian civil society, not only in the implementation, but in the critique of the plan….We want the donors to meet the $11 billion in short term reconstruction costs that are in the post-disaster needs assessment budget, and that the majority of those fund are channeled through a multi-donor fund. But obviously best case scenario would be to come out ahead of that number [$11 billion], in recognition of some of the longer term needs that exist.

Donna Barry on the need to hold donor countries to their commitments: “There were donor conferences for Haiti in 2004 and 2009…In both cases, it was nearly impossible to track the aid that had been pledged and whether it actually made it to Haiti itself. At the 2009 conference, a year ago this month, as of a couple of weeks ago, only 15 percent of the pledges that were made had actually been met. We have a lot of work to keep the donors honest, if you will, and keep the focus on meeting the commitments that they pledge next week.”

Dr. Joia Mukherjee on the initial response bypassing the Haitian government: “What we’ve seen through the first part of this response is a real disempowerment of the government. The entire response has bypassed the government in its entirety and this is very worrisome for people in Haiti. Our goal will be to serve as honest brokers for the government’s needs… When we talk about civil society, we have to remember that is a democratically elected government. And yet they’ve had no ability to respond to this crisis because they have no money. This needs to change immediately… No government can operate in nearly 100 percent austerity conditions. There are no funds for general operating costs, like paying people’s salaries. For us [PIH] the most clear example is the general hospital – the only Level 1 trauma center in the country, and the only public referral hospital in the city – salaries haven’t been paid for 4.5 months. You have doctors and nurses and other staff living in their cars, living on the street, living in tents and they haven’t been paid. We have to create some kind of environment where the Haitian government can do the basic minimum work.

Dr. Joia Mukherjee on promoting accountability in the Haitian government: “No government can handle something of this magnitude without a lot of help. If you look at how our own [United States] government handled Katrina – which was much smaller magnitude given the size of our economy – there were plenty of problems to be had. I think to hold the specter of corruption against a poor government is not really fair. We have to assume there will be problems – but have to put the systems into place and just be very vigilant…We provide help on many levels – in health and education– why not in management and accounting too? We at PIH and other NGOs have the experience of helping to deliver transparency…. we can do the managerial and accounting technical assistance to provide accountability and transparency…but we can’t let the fear of corruption continue to bankrupt and hamstring the Haitian government.
Dr. Joia Mukherjee on the budget of Haiti’s general hospital in Port-au-Prince: “We need to at least get the money flowing for the normal budget – which is pitifully small, $5 million a year to run a facility for 8 million people… We’re working to develop a normal budget for a normal hospital and then move forward from there. Reconstruction and getting the money flowing on the payroll side and on the consumables side will go a long way…For the sake of comparison, at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Harvard where I’m on faculty, the operating budget is close to $2 billion a year.”

Dr. Joia Mukherjee on PIH’s plan going forward: “We are looking to capacitate and grow our cadre of community health workers….their focus will not only be to provide treatment for TB and HIV, but to increase active case finding for malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV and mental illness because we think these are all going to be increased as a consequence of displacement and all the trauma. We plan to hire many more people at the community level that can be doing that work and really be the eyes and ears of the medical system.”

About PIH: PIH works in 12 countries around the world to provide quality health care to people and communities devastated by joint burdens of poverty and disease. PIH has been providing vital health care services in Haiti for more than 20 years and is the largest health care provider in the country, working with the Haitian Ministry of Health to deliver comprehensive health care services to a catchment area of 1.2 million across the Central Plateau and the Lower Artibonite Valley. PIH had 5,000 staff in Haiti before the January 12 earthquake.