You Can’t Have a Home Without a Foundation

The inadequate primary health care systems in Haiti have left thousands of Haitians to suffer from deadly diseases without any proper care.  Despite the numerous NGOs and organizations helping Haiti, to make any lasting changes to the devastating health crisis in Haiti, adjustments need to be made directly to the health care systems themselves.  Even though the Haitian economy has been stabilitized with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5%, that does not bring the majority of the country out of poverty and they are still facing the same health issues.  There has only been a 7% increase of citizens that have access to health from 2008 when 47% of the country’s population did not have any access to health care. Most Haitians are still able to live on only $2 a day. On top of the diseases taking over Haitian life, such as malaria and HIV, a frightening amount of Haitians are only able to afford scarce quantities of food, allowing them only to have poor nutrition diets.  

After the 2015 magnitude 7.0 earthquake leaving 220,000 people dead and another 300,00 injured, a surplus of aid went towards Haiti including aid from the NGOs Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health. Organizations donated a total of $13.5 billion dollars of aid with the purpose of “building a better Haiti”. Surprisingly, this outrageous amount of aid had little impact on the health crisis.  There have been a surplus of short-term improvements. Doctors Without Borders has assisted with 1,869 births, performed 7,950 major surgeries and had 25,500 outpatient consultations. Following the earthquake, was a cholera outbreak.  While NGOs were very beneficial in aiding the health of some Haitians, there were too many citizens infected with diseases and in poor health for a noticeable impact on overall health.  The Haitian government has been completely reliant on the aid to fix their health crisis as well as their economy, but how much aid can be given to Haiti when there are no long term plans to help their citizens? Especially as more problems accumulate. Just in the past year there has been a rise in gun violence, which is the government’s main concern right now. However, the victims don’t have anywhere to go for medical asssitance since there has been no health care system established.  Despite the Haitian government’s plans to establish long-term solutions to resolve the health care system, they have made no specific solutions or actions, unlike the NGOs. Many are questioning how the government has blown through the funds that they received to establish a better future for Haiti, when there are no signs of any new hospitals or equal health care opportunities for their citizens. The Partners in Health organization has opened the University Hospital in Mirebalais to provide health care to more patients, with the help of numerous donors who funded the project.  

As of right now, the govenrment isn’t putting the aid into what they really need- a stable health care system. If the NGOs were better funded, they could work with the government to develop a proper primary health care system that reaches more than 60% of the country, so future aid will be more impactful and health crisises in the future won’t be as much of a concern. Also, if more aid went into long-term projects instead of directly to the government, such as the University Hospital in Mirebalais, it would help thousands of patients currently suffering from disease and future patients.  A large portion of the aid should go directly into Haiti’s budget for health care as well. Currently, Haiti spends per capita US $13 per year on health care, a number way too low for their drastic health crisis. 

Neglect in Venezuela

The Venezuelan humanitarian crisis has reached its breaking point. Venezuelan citizens have been going through turmoil since 2012, two years after the economic crisis began in 2010. The crisis, however, took a drastic turn for the worse in 2017, and now the situation is even more dismal than researchers expected. This crisis severely affects the health conditions Venezuelans live in today. According to a report, patients who go to hospitals must bring not only their own food, but also medical supplies like syringes, scalpels and their own soap and water. Furthermore, diseases that are preventable with vaccines are making a major comeback throughout the country. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as diphtheria, measles and malaria, as well as an increase in tuberculosis in Venezuela. 

With the inflation rate at nearly 3,000 percent at the end of 2017, the people in Venezuela can not sufficiently provide for themselves anymore. An estimated 3.4 million people have fled the country in recent years to escape hunger, diseases and in severe cases death. Venezuela’s neighbors, particularly Colombia and Brazil, have seen an enormous increase in Venezuelans seeking medical care. However, despite the severity of the health crisis, the government continues to consider its healthcare system adequate. President Nicolás Maduro continues to deny the fact that his people are suffering. Humanitarian aid has been slow to reach Venezuela because Maduro blames the shortages of necessities on U.S. sanctions and refuses to allow anything but a small amount of aid to enter the country. One of the groups that Maduro allowed to enter is the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.  They provided medical supplies for about 650,000 people. This aid, however, is only a fraction of the aid that is actually needed in Venezuela. Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have been the only ones to emphasize Venezuela’s misery. Both non-governmental organizations need more help in providing aid to this grief-stricken country. 

Human Rights Watch group has been monitoring the crisis in Venezuela for some time now and is trying to get international organizations to recognize the severity of the crisis. They have partnered with the Center for Humanitarian Health and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to publish one of the first and most recent reports on the crisis. Human Rights Watch has found that the health system is in utter collapse with increased levels of maternal and infant mortality, the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and diphtheria, and increases in numbers of infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis (TB). Human Rights Watch believes that acknowledging the problem and asking for help are crucial first steps.  The Human Rights Watch Group thinks that more funding is essential to the success of any large-scale humanitarian assistance plan in Venezuela. 

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) issued an Emergency Appeal, MDRVE004 Venezuela: Health Emergency, for 50 million Swiss francs to aid 650,000 people and deployed a Head of Emergency Operations in April 2019. The IFRC sees that Venezuela is in a complex situation where access to basic services are denied, especially health services (promotion and prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases, diagnosis and treatment) to its citizens. The IFRC states that it is imperative that healthcare is provided for the population. After the Health Emergency Appeal was launched, response mechanisms were activated to significantly expand access to health care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene for the most affected population. However, the IFRC knows that the inflation in Venezuela has worsened in 2019 and both local currency and foreign currencies are losing purchasing power. The IFRC has a detailed plan on how to help, but it does not have enough resources. So, it has started with citizens who are the most vulnerable, but there are many more people who need help.  

These organizations have been working towards a better future for Venezuela, but they won’t be able to get very far without more funding. Both of the organizations have compelling data that shows the detrimental conditions Venezuelans are living in during this crisis. These organizations have pulled together all the resources they have to battle the crisis, but it is just not enough. To save Venezuelans, the US needs to help fund the Human Rights Watch Group and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent so that they can implement their solutions to effectively aid the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. The time is now to act.

The Most Precious Resource: Conservation Efforts in Costa Rica and Panama

                   The forested region within Costa Rica and parts of Nicaragua and Panama are some of the most biodiverse on the planet. Home to many species of flora and fauna not only unique to the area, but to the rest of the world. Species such as the strawberry poison dart frog, golden orb weaver, three toed sloth and many more beautiful creatures can be found within the biomes of this region. Unfortunately for the creatures of this region, they inhabit an incredibly turbulent and unstable region of the world. The country of Costa Rica has a GDP per capita of 11,630.67 USD compared to the United States’ 59,531.66 USD. This, naturally, means that the local populations of these nations are less inclined to think about the well being of the creatures around them. Crime rates in these countries have risen dramatically; it was reported that in 2015, Costa Rica experienced a murder rate of 11.5 per 100,000 people (compred to the US’ 3.5 per 100,000 people). Because of the social issues affecting the region, the local authorities have turned to NGOs (non-government organizations) to help encourage locals to be more environmentally conscious and aware. Most NGO’s in the area have some financial backing or educational program that keeps the organization afloat.
                     One such organization is the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project based in the town of El Valle de Anton, Panama. Created as a partnership between The New England Zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Houston Zoo, the Smithsonian National Zoo, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Defenders of Wildlife, the mission of the organization is to rescue and establish sustainable assurance colonies of amphibian species that are in extreme danger of extinction throughout Panama and the greater Central American area. They also focus their efforts on developing methodologies to reduce the impact of the amphibian chytrid fungus which ravishes the amphibian population in these areas, along with training locals on veterinary, environmental and sustainability techniques.
                    Other organizations that promote the conservation of animals in the Central American countries of Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are; the Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas (ASVoCR), the Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary and Penjamo Community Wildlife Refuge, The Cloudbridge Nature Reserve and Corredor Biologico just to name a few Each one of these organizations have taken steps to encourage the preservation of nature in their local communities.
                 With a focus on the protection of the natural forestry and beaches in the area, ASVoCR, focuses on prevention, education and investigation. With projects such as the Buena Vista Project and the Playa Montezuma Project where the focus is on the saving, reintroducing and rehabilitating sea turtles into the ocean ASVoCR not only focuses on immediate environmental support. The Robles-Kaufmann Station is named after a group of Oxford donors and focus on reforesting and educating the local community about the wonders of the natural world around them
The Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary and Penjamo Community Wildlife Refuge is based on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the North Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Consisting of 28 acres of wildlife sanctuary, education programs within the local school system and community awareness programs. One of their main concerns is the reproduction for reintroduction of endangered or already extinct species of animals and birds, as well as combating the poaching, hide trade, the illicit pet trade in our area and the promotion of reforestation by providing rare and endangered hardwoods and native fruit trees.
                      The Cloudbridge Nature Reserve is another one of these organizations which seeks to protect the natural order of the area. Based near Costa Rica’s Chirripó National Park, on a former cattle farm. The Reserve includes 70 acres of high altitude forest with all the accompanying diversities within the natural ecosystems. Cloudforest foliage and epiphytes have a unique capacity to capture moisture from the air, allowing moisture-loving organisms to survive even during the dry season. Leading to an incredibly unique perspective in the climate change arena.With a four step mission statement – conserve, reforest, educate and research- the reserve is one of many organizations looking for change in this area.
                  With NGOs active in the region, Central America has made significant steps towards reducing their impact on the Earth, However but the NGOs themselves cannot act as the main force of this change, but rather as the catalyst that brings it on. The main responsibility should come from the governments responsible for the areas in question.