Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Foreign teams 'took over Haiti aid'

The earthquake in Haiti has been described as 'the biggest urban disaster' in modern history

International medical response teams staged a "takeover" after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, undermining the country's own ability to provide healthcare, according to a report by a British charity.

While "welcome and vital", few of the foreign aid agencies made use of local doctors and nurses and extensive health facilities in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital, after the disaster, international health charity Merlin said. Having been at the forefront of saving lives in the initial aftermath, local health workers found themselves sidelined and undermined, Merlin said.

The charity said there had been a "brain drain" of Haitian healthcare workers into better paid jobs with international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), worsening the chronic shortage of healthcare workers in the country.

Free healthcare from INGOs has also "severely affected" the viability of many existing facilities which all relied to some extent on fees paid by patients, according to the report - entitled Is Haiti's health system any better?

The charity, which provides training, equipment and medical experts to help in global emergencies, said there should be a more co-ordinated and "collaborative" approach to emergency responses.

There should also be long-term investment in health workers in "high-risk" countries such as Haiti to help them prepare for health crises, it said.

Paula Sansom, Merlin response team co-ordinator, said: "The international response to Haiti was incredible and saved thousands of lives.

"We have to build on this momentum and work together to ensure emergency responses not only save lives but help to leave behind a stronger health system.

"There is a collective responsibility for Haiti and the collective will is there to do things better."

The Haiti earthquake, which struck one year ago, has been described as the "biggest urban disaster" in modern history. An estimated 230,000 people were killed in the magnitude-7.0 earthquake and more than 1.5 million were left homeless.

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