On Tuesday, January 12th, 2010, Haiti was hit by a shallow, 7.0 magnitude earthquake, leading to staggering numbers of lives lost and severe infrastructure damage. With the epicenter being less than 15 km from Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, the heavily populated city suffered heavy devastation. Despite having plans in place for weather-related disasters such as hurricanes, the impoverished nation was ill prepared for a natural disaster of this scale.
Existing Risk Factors
Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean, however it is also the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. According to the World Health Organization, in 2009 45% of Haitians lacked access to clean drinking water, and 83% lacked sufficient sanitation.
Tuesday’s earthquake damaged already compromised critical infrastructure such as hospitals and health clinics. An early report noted that at least eight Port-au-Prince area hospitals had either collapsed or had suffered severe damage. Basic utilities such as power, water, sanitation, transport, and lines of communication were significantly impacted immediately following the initial quake.
Earthquake Related Risks
High mortality due to trauma has already been seen with this disaster. Estimates of 100,000 to 200,000 dead are circulating, however the actual death toll may never be known due to the disposal of corpses in mass graves. Post-traumatic infections are the most immediate risk due to the lack of medical supplies and support.
Infectious disease such as measles, malaria, meningitis, tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and respiratory illnesses were present already in Haiti before the earthquake, but amplification is expected in the face of this complex humanitarian emergency. Waterborne diseases may begin to emerge at a particularly high frequency due to a lack of safe drinking water and sewage contamination due to damaged infrastructure. Occurrences of vector-borne diseases such as dengue, malaria, and rabies may also increase during the current emergency situation due to inadequate shelter.
Longer-term public health concerns include environmental, reproductive, nutritional, and mental health risks. Interventions must be put into place quickly, and continued access to care needs to be assured for all Haitians affected by this disaster.
How HealthMap is Contributing
HealthMap began monitoring focused news feeds in seven languages to obtain breaking information, regarding public health related events in Haiti on January 14th, 2010 please see: http://www.healthmap.org/haiti. We will continue to provide health alerts and other vital public health news regarding this natural disaster as it becomes available. If you are aware of any information that is not on our map, please add it via one of the HealthMap Community Contribution methods:
1. Leave a voice message or send an SMS text to the HealthMap Hotline at +1 919-MAP-1-BUG (919-627-1284)
2. Email your report to email@example.com
4. Submit a report via the “Outbreaks Near Me” application available on both iPhone and Android
5. Post on Twitter with #healthmap
HealthMap is also linking to Partners in Health to assist in obtaining donations to support aid efforts in Haiti. The Partners in Health organization has a longstanding presence in Haiti, providing large-scale health care, development, job training and employment for Haitians. Donations can be made by clicking on the Partners in Health button on our Focus on Haiti website, or by visiting Partners in Health directly.
In the absence of national emergency management infrastructure, individual reports of neighborhood conditions can provide a mosaic of the crisis. Ushahidi provides highly detailed mapping of these accounts, including disease related news. You can visit http://haiti.ushahidi.com/main for all Ushahidi news reports, or http://www.healthmap.org/haiti for their health-related alerts.
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