Five Facts about Healthcare in Haiti
Haiti is known as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Unsurprisingly, the Caribbean country also reports some of the lowest health indicators in the world due to a number of factors including weak infrastructure and low public health care spending. Keep reading to learn the top five facts about health care in Haiti.

5 Facts About Health Care in Haiti

  1. Lack of Infrastructure: frequent natural disasters, such as the earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, make it difficult to maintain basic health facilities in Haiti. For example, the 2010 earthquake destroyed 50 health centers, part of Haiti’s main teaching hospital and the Ministry of Health. Lack of basic infrastructure also limits the accessibility of clean water and sanitation systems.
  2. Continued Effects of Cholera: following an earthquake in 2010, Haiti suffered its first cholera outbreak in a decade, when infected sewage contaminated a river. Approximately 10,000 people have died of cholera, while more than 800,000 have contracted the infection. Despite the United Nation’s promise to raise $400 million for a Haitian Cholera Relief Fund, the U.N. has raised only 8.7 million (2.2 percent of the amount promised). Even now, nearly a decade after the outbreak, cholera infects approximately 75 people every week. This outbreak continues to put a strain on the Haitian health care system.
  3. Child Malnutrition: 20 percent of Haitian children suffer from malnutrition. Further, half of these children are acutely malnourished. Malnourishment also contributes to high rates of childhood mortality in Haiti and 7 percent of children will die before their fifth birthday. For context, the childhood mortality rate of Haiti is exceptionally high, twice that of its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Even when malnourished children survive, malnutrition continues to affect them throughout their lives. The lack of adequate nutrients early in life reduces an individual’s physical and mental development going forward.As of January 2018, there are three active USAID programs in Haiti with a specific focus on nutrition.
    • Aksyon Kominote nan Sante pou Ogmante Nitrisyon (AKSYON)
    • Ranfose Abitid Nitrisyon pou Fè Ogmante Sante (RANFOSE)
    • Feed the Future West Chanje Lavi Plantè
  4. Lack of Preventive Care: more than half of health care spending in Haiti goes toward curative medicine, as opposed to preventive care. This focus stems primarily from frequent natural disasters in the area. Low numbers of health care professionals in Haiti make it even more difficult for Haitians to seek regular, preventive care. According to the World Health Organization, for every 3,000 citizens, there is only one trained doctor or nurse in Haiti.
  5. Low Public Healthcare Spending: despite health challenges in Haiti, the government’s spending on health has lowered drastically since 2002, going from 16.6 percent to 4.4 percent of the national budget. In fact, public per capita healthcare spending is only 13 dollars a year. This is significantly lower than per capita healthcare spending in neighboring Dominican Republic, which is 180 dollars per capita. With declining international assistance, low government spending makes primary health care in Haiti difficult to access.

The health care system in Haiti is constantly under strain, due to low government spending and frequent natural disasters. Poor health across the country debilitates its growth and development. The World Bank has made several policy recommendations targeted at changing the status quo in Haiti. Chief among them is a reallocation of resources from hospitals to more preventative care and primary clinics.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti
The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti reveal a domino-effect of massive natural disasters, fragile health care infrastructure and low access to preventative care in a country where half of the population lives in extreme poverty. On the bright side, poverty rates have improved and can continue to uplift if aid focuses on establishing long-term preventative care facilities and the government can effectively communicate with programs to meet needs. With the improvements in poverty rates and health care, life expectancy will consequentially improve.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Haiti

  1. The life expectancy in Haiti is 63.5 years, lower than that of its neighbors Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Female are projected to live longer with the life expectancy of 65.7 years while men are expected to live 61.3 years on average. The country’s population consists of 10.98 million people. The healthy life expectancy is alarmingly low, standing at only 44 years.
  2. More than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, categorized as suffering from extreme poverty. A $2 daily budget allows little to no room for medicine, preventative care, hospitals or emergency clinics.
  3. The country has also seen various improvements over the last 30 years, as 1970 saw life expectancy rates that were as low as 47 years.
  4. The child mortality rate drastically improved since 1960 when it hovered around 249 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today’s rate of 71.7 deaths per 1,000 live births means care access for infants and children with complications or illnesses still needs to advance.
  5. On 12 January 2010, earthquake disintegrated medical and treatment facilities in Port-au-Prince within seconds. The magnitude 7 earthquake, powerful enough to destroy most of the city, put the medical system back to the most rudimentary stage with few facilities and overloaded the hospitals with the wounded people. Between 46,000 and 300,000 Haitians died and most areas were forced to wait for Doctors without Borders humanitarian aid for over a month due to the critical devastation of roads and airports.
  6. The country never had proper funds to establish a secure health care infrastructure amidst a crushing sequence of natural disasters. Quick and accessible care often spells the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, Haitian clinics that would have saved lives were destroyed in the earthquake. Of course, aid can never replace a health care system. Many international organizations partner with the country to provide health care access and immediate care. Plenty International, whose past and ongoing projects in Haiti include partnering with Haitian clinics, channeling medicine and supplies, including water sanitation tablets and offering Haitian midwives training in Home Based Life-Saving Skills, interventions that save women and children’s lives, is one of those organizations.
  7. After the 2010 earthquake, cases of cholera developed from unsanitary water conditions and lack of health care. By 2016, this disease had sickened 770,000 people and the U.N. promised to bring in funding to compensate the families of the deceased and ill. Cholera is not the only concern as Haiti suffers the highest percentages of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean at approximately 150,000 cases in 2016. Around 55 percent of the sufferers had access to antiretroviral treatment, an improved rate from 2010 when there were 10 percent more HIV-caused deaths. Progress shows up in malnutrition rates as well, as the number of undernourished children dropped significantly from 2006 to 2012 due to the government ramping up programs. As of May 2012, services included 285 outpatient programs, 16 inpatient stabilization units for severely affected children, 174 baby feeding tents and 350 supplementary nutrition programs.
  8. Annual per capita expenditure for health care is a stark $13. In comparison, this number is $180 in the Dominican Republic. After the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose presidency was toppled in 2004, the health care budget took a hefty slash. Hopefully, as Haiti strives to create more sustainability in its health care infrastructure, the current government administration will prioritize preventative care and have the ability to increase the budget.
  9. Habitat for Humanity, responding to the need for structures and sustainable living situations after the earthquake, organized Pathways to Permanence, developing urban areas and teaching about land rights and finances. Their HOME program also provides access to long-term financing to reduce the housing deficit. They have helped rebuild the district Simon-Pelé, north of capital Port-au-Prince, whose former structures were predominately self-built. The organization also partnered with the community to provide water and sanitation projects and vocational training for adults.
  10. Text message donations from all over the U.S. brought immediate funding for disaster relief. A nongovernmental organization named Innovating Health International (IHI) combines community-oriented disease research, collaboration with local perspectives and prevention awareness to treat women with a range of chronic illnesses. IHI is carrying out the widest-reading study of chronic disease in a low-income country in the world.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Haiti highlight the hard road ahead to establish a sustainable infrastructure to address the country’s health care needs. Part of the struggle lies with its need for disaster-relief programs, many of which operated mainly to bring emergency care. As Haiti stabilizes its economic and employment rates, and more citizens can afford or be provided with preventative care, the crisis will decelerate. However, the economic, political, and health-care infrastructure all require stabilizing and the continued partnering of foreign aid for the country to progress to a more sustainable future.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr