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Statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Since the devastating earthquake first struck Haiti on January 12, President Obama directed the deployment of a full array of U.S. Government assets to help meet emergency health needs in the wake of the crisis.  The Department of Health and Human Services has played a critical role in this broad medical response, working in coordination with USAID, the lead agency for the U.S. Government, to bring critical medical assistance to the people of Haiti.

HHS deployed over 1,100 personnel to Haiti:  everyone from CDC public health experts, to the doctors and nurses who staffed the twelve disaster medical assistance teams (DMATs) that were sent to Haiti and the disaster mortuary team (DMORT) working to help recover those who lost their lives in the quake. They have been supported by thousands of other staff in the United States.

HHS efforts on the ground have directly benefited the Haitian people, who have suffered so greatly from the earthquake. Between January 17 and February 22, our DMATs saw more than 31,300 patients, performed 167 surgeries and delivered 45 babies. In addition to our acute care medical teams, HHS also contributed critical medical supplies and equipment, such as medicines and mobile medical tents, to the relief effort.

Now, working hand in hand with the Government of Haiti and our public- and private-sector partners in the international response, our medical response efforts are moving from focusing on emergency acute care for those harmed in the earthquake to focusing on helping the people of Haiti rebuild their medical infrastructure, increase their capacity to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and secure the processes needed to ensure those who were injured can receive ongoing rehabilitative care.

On February 25, Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph released a statement that said:

“Now, after more than a month of relief activities, the stage is set for transitioning to a new phase in Health cooperation in Haiti in order to provide more adequate and sustainable healthcare services to the population. In that regards, a shift of resources towards more long term programs is a must.

Over the past few weeks, we have helped the Government of Haiti and our NGO partners identify hospitals and doctors who can provide longer-term care to the people of Haiti. As we help to bring in things like mobile field hospitals and vital equipment to rebuild Haiti’s own medical capacity, we have slowly been transitioning out our DMATs.  Our last DMAT returned this week, leaving behind critical equipment and supplies.  The National Disaster Medical System medical evacuation flights that began on February 2 are ending, after transporting more than 70 Haitian patients with life-threatening conditions to U.S. hospitals for critical acute care.

Our CDC teams will remain working side by side with their Haitian counterparts to develop disease surveillance systems so possible outbreaks of disease can be quickly identified and appropriately mitigated. They will also continue to work with the combined international response will strengthen and expand Haiti’s health care infrastructure and public health systems, including vaccination and sanitation.

The next phase will be difficult, especially as the rainy season begins, and the people of Haiti still face daunting challenges.  But as Haitian government officials have expressed to us since the first teams arrived in Haiti, it is vitally important for the future of Haiti to have Haitian doctors and nurses running their own health care system and for patients to be cared for at home, near their families and friends.

We are prepared to help Haiti in this task and are already doing so. USAID and the non-governmental organizations are developing an aggressive plan to get medical equipment, supplies and training into the country. Governments from across the world continue to contribute to the response.  People from across the world continue to donate their money, their time and their skills to assist in rebuilding Haiti. The January 12 earthquake was a disaster of massive proportions. Working together as a world community the first steps were taken to deal with the immediate aftermath and provide immediate assistance to the people of Haiti.  We will continue to provide support in the coming days and months as Haiti continues to recover and rebuild.