PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti has fallen victim to devastating earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters within the past decade and consequently experiences severe health repercussions as a result. Common diseases in Haiti, such as malaria and cholera, were already major health concerns for Haitians long before the recent destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. As a result of the tropical storm, Haiti is now under a state of greater medical emergency pressure because of the emergence of common diseases in greater quantities.
Widespread flooding is the main vehicle for common diseases in Haiti. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Haiti experiences its highest transmission rates of malaria “after the rainy seasons from March through May and October through November.”
This makes Haiti’s risk of major infectious diseases very high because of the excessive water and lack of medical infrastructure available. In 2016, cases of malaria nearly doubled due to standing water left over by Hurricane Matthew’s floods.
Hurricane Matthew’s mass flooding across the country has not only brought with it an increased spread of malaria, but also the Zika virus. Efforts to exterminate harmful mosquitoes that are carriers of both malaria and Zika have been hindered due to the destruction leftover from the tropical storm.
Because of drastic health consequences of the virus (birth defects such as microcephaly), the virus is now categorized as a public health emergency of international concern as it may spread into the Americas.
Water security is a key factor in reversing the effects of many of the common diseases in Haiti. Haiti suffers from water contamination when it lacks access to secure water and conversely is susceptible to further spread of Zika after periods of flooding.
Health officials in Haiti are advising locals to keep all water sources, particularly those within residential areas, properly covered to prevent a suitable breeding ground for mosquitoes as well as draining standing pools of water. As for using pesticides to lessen the spread of common diseases in Haiti, the uncertainty of possible lasting environmental effects that contaminate Haiti’s natural resources has prevented Haitians from utilizing this method.
Haiti’s present solution to slowing the spread of infectious diseases so far has been to use practical solutions to isolate and eliminate disease-carrying mosquitoes as well as receiving aid from the Ministry of Health and from international nongovernmental organizations.
According to Partners in Health, these groups use strategies like “epidemiological surveillance, social communication and mobilization, family planning, vector-borne disease control, clinical management, and monitoring and evaluation” to combat factors that contribute to common diseases in Haiti.
Although reducing these common diseases in Haiti has no single solution, these strategies have been effective in reducing the spread of them.
– Kaitlin Hocker