Haiti: A History of Poverty and Poor Health
Haiti has extremely poor health indices. The life expectancy at birth is 61 years (9), and the estimated IMR (Infant Mortality Rate) is 64 per 1,000 live births, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. An estimated 87 of every 1,000 children born die by the age of 5 years (9), and >25% of surviving children experience chronic undernutrition or stunted growth (10). Maternal mortality rate is 630 per 100,000 live births (10).
Haitians are at risk of spreading vaccine-preventable diseases, such as polio and measles, because childhood vaccination coverage is low (59%) for polio, measles-rubella, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccines (9). Prevalence of adult HIV infection (1.9%) and tuberculosis (312 cases per 100,000 population) in the Western Hemisphere is also highest in Haiti (11,12), and Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic, is the only Caribbean island where malaria remains endemic (13).
Only half of the Haitian population has access to health care because of poverty and a shortage of health care professionals (1 physician and 1.8 nurses per 10,000 population), and only one fourth of seriously ill persons are taken to a health facility (14). Before the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, only 63% of Haiti’s population had access to an improved drinking water source (e.g., water from a well or pipe), and only 17% had access to a latrine (15).
Emerging Infectious Diseases