Healthcare in Haiti

Haiti_mapThe country of Haiti is an island found in the western hemisphere located in the Gulf of Mexico. The country’s population consists of approximately 10 million, nearly twice the population of Minnesota in half the land area. The median age in Haiti is 20 years old with a life expectancy of 60 years, compared to a life expectancy of 78 years old in the United States. Eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line, with 54 percent of these people living in “abject” poverty, making Haiti the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Haiti is second only to African countries in rates of HIV/AIDs infections, with estimates ranging from 4.5-12%.

A history of political instability, along with the devastating earthquake of January 2010, have made improving public health in Haiti difficult. Nearly half of the population practices voodoo, which can significantly influence their perception of western philosophies regarding health care. With only one doctor per 4,000 people, access to health care is extremely limited, especially in rural areas such as Chabin where the ratio is as low as 0.2 physicians per 10,000 people.

Currently, about half of the population does not have access to safe water supply, 60% of the population is unable to obtain sufficient food to eat, and 40% of the population have limited access to basic health care. Many births are performed without trained health care professionals, more than 50% of the population has no access to medications, and about 50% of the children are not vaccinated. Most of these diseases are preventable and treatable, thus access to health care will greatly benefit this population.

The town of Chabin is located in the southeast region of Haiti. Through organizations such as Haiti Village Health and Lifeline Haiti, temporary clinics have given medical support to Chabin, but no permanent clinic has been built to provide full-time care to its residents. The closest hospital entitled Hôpital Saint-Michel is located in the nearby city, Jacmel. The hospital staffs only 6 doctors and 10 nurses to provide care to the thousands located in this region. Although the hospital was badly damaged by the earthquake in 2010, relief efforts have been provided to rebuild this hospital by Community Coalition for Haiti. Nevertheless, this facility is not sufficient to serve the surrounding population and is mainly used for emergency situations.