Washington, D.C., 3 February 2014 (PAHO/WHO). The Director-General of Haiti's Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), Dr. Marie Guirlaine Raymond Charité, met in Washington, D.C. with top officials of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Americas, to explore channels of cooperation for Haiti's National Health Plan.

The main purpose of the 2012-2022 health plan is "to ensure that morbidity and mortality from major health problems is reduced through an efficient, accessible, and universal health system," said Raymond Charité. According to official data, life expectancy in Haiti is 60.6 years, only 25% of births take place in health centers, and only 60% of the population has access to health services.

Nevertheless, the country has made great progress in health in recent years, as reflected in the fact that the number of new cholera cases declined from 39,214 in July of 2011 to 5,151 in July of 2013; that malaria cases fell from 500,000 in 2011 to 140,387 in 2013; and that the detection and treatment of tuberculosis has improved, with respective indices of 74% and 82% last year. Furthermore, a national ambulance system has been put in place, and new vaccines such as the pentavalent have been introduced to protect children from dangerous diseases.

The Director-General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population urged that international cooperation be aligned with the nation's priorities and that donors strengthen their commitment to Haiti, which depends on international cooperation for 86% of its health budget.

In this connection, the Director-General spoke of establishing a health system capable of ensuring coverage throughout the country and meeting essential health needs not only with modern medicine but also through traditional medicine; of strengthening the leadership of the MSPP in monitoring diseases, ensuring quality, enforcing regulations, and accrediting institutions; and of ensuring that the system is funded through steady budget increases.

She said that the nation's priorities also include implementing a system for response to emergences of both natural and anthropogenic origin, meeting the national and international goals adopted as the Millennium Development Goals, and eliminating filariasis, measles, and neonatal tetanus.

"While Haiti continues to fight communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases pose a challenge," Raymond Charité added, citing hypertension as the main cause of mortality in adults.

Another challenge is training and retaining the human resources needed to provide care. With this in mind, the country has reopened its Health Officers' School to educate health technicians. "Community health must be organized, and we have begun to train polyvalent agents. We want to have one for every 200 families," she indicated, adding that 5,000 have already been trained.

Addressing an audience that included PAHO/WHO Assistant Director Dr. Francisco Becerra and PAHO/WHO Deputy Director Dr. Jon Andrus, in addition to the directors of the organization's various technical areas, the Director-General of Haiti's Ministry of Public Health and Population mentioned a number of programs on which work is currently in progress. The programs address the governance of the health portfolio, the education of human resources for health, and the establishment of a specialized hospital in each of the country's departments, among other priorities.

Four years after the earthquake that killed 230,000 in Haiti, advances have been made in the country's recovery and in the health of its population. PAHO has provided uninterrupted technical cooperation to Haiti for decades, and has an office in the country whose priorities for collaboration are aligned with those of the Ministry of Public Health and Population.