With one of the longest consecutive coastlines in the Caribbean, the country of Haiti is located in the Hispaniola Island, shared with the Dominican Republic, and part of the Greater Antilles situated in the Western Hemisphere. Its location has provided the nation with its beautiful beaches and tropical climate, but has also made it vulnerable to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Its French and Creole speaking population has dealt with hardships in more than one area, with foreign occupation and other complex factors contributing to political unrest and poverty. In the field of health, the country ranks low in a global scale among various indicators such as hospital bed density and healthcare expenditure.
More than a matter of healthcare access
However, the concern with health in Haiti goes beyond the number of hospital beds or money spent directly on medical care. Basic rights crucial for health outcomes such as access to clean water and food, are lacking for a great part of the population. In 2020, it was estimated that Haiti was one of the countries most affected by hunger and malnutrition, along with African nations such as Chad, Timor-Leste, and Madagascar. That year, only an estimated 19 percent of the over 11 million people living in Haiti had access to safely managed drinking water, and only around a third of them could access proper sanitation. This has resulted in outcomes such as life expectancy at birth being low when compared to other Latin American nations.
The COVID-19 pandemic
Although at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the Caribbean country was not considered one of the most affected territories in the region based on official figures, its citizens have endured a series of substantial challenges throughout the outbreak. Lack of testing and insufficient equipment, closures of working places in a society that lives day-by-day, the assassination of Haiti’s president in July 2021, and a strong earthquake that hit the island in August of the same year, have been some of the additional hurdles faced by the population during the sanitary crisis. Even with international support through the COVAX program, Haiti only started immunizing its population by the end of July 2021, months after other countries had begun vaccination campaigns. An improvement of the country’s health situation is complex and necessary, and will likely require multiple structural changes, and various locally and internationally supported initiatives.
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