A year and a half after an earthquake in Haiti killed more than 300,000 people and left 1.5 million people homeless, more than 800,000 Haitians still live in makeshift camps where health conditions are appalling and deadly diseases like cholera have proliferated.
In his new book, ’Haiti After The Earthquake,’ Paul Farmer, founding director of healthcare charity Partners in Health and the United Nations’ deputy special envoy in Haiti, visits the rubble-strewn capital, Port-au-Prince, in the immediate aftermath of the Caribbean country’s quake.
"If any country was a mine-shaft canary for the reintroduction of cholera, it was Haiti — and we knew it,” Farmer, a medical anthropologist and physician, and a professor at Harvard University, told the National Public Radio (NPR) on Tuesday.
“And in retrospect, more should have been done to prepare for cholera,” he said of the outbreak that followed the January 2010 quake.
“It was hard to know how to prioritize anxieties, and as a doctor, I thought immediately of the General Hospital,” Farmer writes in an excerpt published on the NPR website.
“It wasn't hard to imagine the enormity of need in this struggling public facility which had, in the best of times, too many patients, too few staff, and far too few resources.”
Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to recover from the quake and there has been heated criticism on the handling of the millions of dollars that were poured into the country after the disaster.
"Some people talk about Haiti as being the graveyard of development projects,” Farmer told NPR.
“Our own experience has been very positive working in Haiti…but [we are now thinking about] how we can now make these other, more ambitious projects also effective on the implementation front."