This week marks one year since the earthquake in Haiti, and Humane Society International has been on the ground there for nearly as long, with all the promise and pitfalls that an extended deployment like this offers in an impoverished nation. We had so many challenges there: we entered a country with no animal welfare infrastructure, largely a result of Haiti’s extreme poverty. I’ve asked our top person in Haiti, Chris Broughton-Bossong, to give us a report on the anniversary of this ongoing crisis. The situation in Haiti remains dire, but the prospects for advancing humane work are improving. My deepest thanks to Chris for his extraordinary commitment, as well as to our veterinary teams from the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and our organizational partners Christian Veterinary Mission and Best Friends Animal Society.
I deployed to Haiti in the desperate weeks after the earthquake, making three trips and spending over a month in the country meeting with government officials, Haitian veterinarians, and representatives from other NGOs working in the country. In March, I decided that progress there would require an even greater commitment. I moved to Haiti to live and work full-time, and to coordinate and implement the launch of five separate initiatives in Haiti during 2010 and 2011.
Frank Loftus/The HSUS
HSI spay/neuter training for Haitian vets
HSI’s Haiti programs include the establishment of the first animal welfare center in Haiti, continuing education and training for Haitian veterinarians, nationwide spay/ neuter and vaccination projects to address the street dog overpopulation, providing medical care and owner training for horses and pack animals, and developing the first Haitian veterinary disaster response team. Each of these programs is well underway.
Each of our initiatives begins by training Haitian veterinarians, since helping to advance their professional skills and securing their dedication to these projects is integral to long-term success. We recently completed the construction of a veterinary hospital at our Haiti Animal Welfare Center that will provide low-cost services to the local community. This is the first facility of its kind in Haiti. Veterinarians and technicians now have a central location where they can receive continuing education and technical training with a humane focus, something that did not exist prior to our investment of time, effort, and resources.
Of course, there are significant direct care components to our program as well. Our street dog vaccination and sterilization clinics address the public health concerns associated with unchecked canine populations, including rabies and intestinal parasites. Our Equine Welfare clinics provide opportunities for Haitian veterinarians to work within their communities to treat working equines that may otherwise receive no veterinary care. The clinics also serve to educate the owners about proper care and nourishment of animals to improve their general health and well-being.
Finally, HSI is providing a variety of technical and logistical disaster mitigation and response trainings to selected Haitian veterinarians throughout the country so that they can assume larger roles in helping to address the wide variety of natural disasters to which the country is predisposed. In the wake of the devastation caused by the earthquake, HSI gained a tremendous opportunity to provide long term support in the form of infrastructure development in a country where it is so desperately needed.
I am honored to be able to play a part in the execution of these programs, and confident that we are laying the groundwork for success in the future for the people and animals of Haiti.