Haiti: The worst health statistics in the Western Hemisphere

Continuing political and social instability means that a majority of Haitians live in precarious conditions.
  • International staff: 8
  • National staff: 41 MSF has been working since 1992 on several projects designed to improve health care and sanitation in Haiti, the country with the worst health indicators in the Western Hemisphere. The public health care system suffers from the country's poverty, and continuing political and social instability means that a majority of Haitians live in precarious conditions. Improving maternal medical care In early 2000, MSF launched a four-year effort to fight maternal mortality, estimated by the Pan-American Health Organization to be about 457 deaths per 100,000 live births. The MSF program is based in the commune of Saint-Marc, on the coast about 100km northwest of the capital Port-au-Prince. Expatriate and local midwives work with the people and their community leaders, traditional birth attendants and local dispensaries to improve the chain of medical care for pregnant women. Improving management at the district level This focus on maternal care follows three years of work based in the Saint-Marc health district supporting the government's transition to a new organizational structure for health services, the Community Health Unit. Through December 1999, MSF worked with the Ministry of Health to define and begin implementation of the final stage of this program, a management and logistics system for the whole district (including Saint-Marc and the communes of Desdunes and Grande Saline). MSF has also provided a health management professional to help create a district-wide system for managing human and financial resources and information. The MSF team continues to train local doctors and nurses in basic emergency surgery skills. Toward the end of 2000, a similar but smaller-scale program will begin in the neighboring district of Petite Rivière. Projects brought to a close in 1999 In disadvantaged areas of Port-au-Prince, work to construct latrines, rehabilitate dispensaries and improve access to drinkable water drew to a close in August 1999. Another program training nurses in the basics of anesthesiology in Jérémie, a town in the western part of the country, was phased out at the same time.