The strengths and Room for Improvement in the Public Health System in Haiti

The strengths and Room for Improvement in the Public Health System in Haiti

Assume that you are a public health officer deployed to assist public health efforts in the Island nation of Haiti following the massive earthquake that rocked the Island nation in January 2010.

 Read the following materials and analyze the strengths and room for improvement in the public health system you encounter as you walk on the rubble left by the earthquake.


The earthquake of January 12, 2010, devastated the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  The distorting and horrific sight of the aftermath caused by Haiti’s earthquake in 2010  left piles of rubble remaining throughout the capital and a fatal widespread intestinal disease among the community.  Dowell, Tappero, & Frieden, (2011) discovered that the earthquake laid waste to what was perhaps already the weakest public health system in the world.  After the quake there were 19 million cubic meters of rubble and debris in Port au Prince alone, “enough to fill a line of shipping containers stretching end to end from London to Beirut” p.1.   The infrastructure was badly damaged beyond repair.   Over 188,383 houses were severely damaged and 105,000 were destroyed by the earthquake.  Sanitation standards where beyond livable, while over 1.5m people were scattered about the country side living in camps including over 100,000 in critical risk areas from the continuing storms and flooding .  DEC (2014) noted that before the earthquake in 2008, only 63% of Haitians had access to acceptable water sources and only 17% to adequate sanitation facilities.  Therefore, drinking and bathing in fecal contamination was already common and diarrheal was the leading cause of childhood deaths.  The earthquake left ruins of all roads, which dramatically increased the traffic making any emergency response extremely challenging (DEC, 2014).   In addition, over 60% of Government and administrative buildings were destroyed and lay in ruins, as were 80% of all schools in Port-au-Prince and 60% of schools in the South.  The earthquake destroyed the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) building which happens to be the headquarters of the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The already weakened country was now neither inhabitable nor self-sufficient.  To make matters worse and unrelated to the earthquake but causing major health care challenges was the outbreak of cholera in October 2010.   It was noted by DEC (2014) that by 2011 over 5,900 had perished as a result of the outbreak, and 216,000 were infected.  It is apparent that Strong public health systems are essential for maintaining and improving health and well-being in all forms of society.

However, the devastation and the impacts on the environment, combined with the heavy rains and hurricane seasons, managed to refine the focus on the need for more effective disaster and health management in Haiti (Dowell, Tappero, & Frieden, 2011).  Despite the challenges and the emergency disaster response downfalls some constructive efforts were plausible from January 2010 to July 2012.  Some of these efforts included:  Improving the water supply for over 340,000 citizens; supplying drugs to five cholera treatment facilities serving 18,000 people and providing free medical care to 39,000 people.  In addition, the local government along with international leaders gave informative education to over 116,000 people about preparing for future disasters (DEC, 2014).  Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also provided leadership for hundreds of international donors and institutions.  Additionally, as part of an international effort to assist with strengthening the public health reconstruction effort, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deployed over 300 technical experts to Haiti. Furthermore, the Agency for International Development (AID) made available additional experts and over ten million dollars (DEC, 2014).

Haiti’s earthquake although hit the national scale by questioning Disaster Management strategies, it also opened new opportunities in generating policies that will improve disaster risk reduction on a national scale (UNDP, 2010).  The main objective of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is to increase the strength of the population regarding disasters mitigation by strengthening the system for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) at the local, departmental and communal levels.  Disaster Risk Reduction has become a priority for UNDP in Haiti.  The UNDP effort was categorized in the different phase.  Phase I form April–June 2010  concentrated on strengthening the capacity of the Department of Civil Protection which includes rebuilding and equipping the central offices, building and equipping in each department. Additionally, it was designed to strengthen the Department’s capacity in utilizing human resources.  Phase II (July–December 2010) focused efforts to mitigate and manage the threats presented by tropical storms and hurricanes.  Phase III (January 2011–December 2012)  involved strategic strengthening of the Department of Civil Protection by applying lessons learned and conduct proper mitigation analysis  (UNDP, 2010).  Other additional mitigation efforts involve developing an effective early warning system by utilizing meteorological radar systems which will facilitate more sophisticated real time communications as well as developing a watershed program to help alleviate flooding (UNDP, 2010).   Although the Haiti earthquake was considered a failure for proper disaster and mitigation it has opened the eyes of experts around the world in developing and implementing proper disaster mitigation plans on an international level.



DEC. (2014, August 24). Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures . Retrieved from Disasters Emergeny Commitee:

Dowell, S. F., Tappero, J. W., & Frieden, T. R. (2011). Public Health in Haiti — Challenges and Progress. The New England Journal of Medicine, 364: 300-301. doi:10.1056/NEJMp1100118

UNDP. (2010). Disaster Risk Reduction and Environment. United Nations Development Programme, 3. Retrieved from


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