On this World Health Day 2018, when we all realize that there are still so many millions of people around the world who don’t have access to basic health care and who die from fully treatable diseases, we’d like to thank Congress for passing a budget that has sustained or increased funding in many of these very vital efforts. We know it takes compromise and arguing and give-and-take on all sides, so we thank you for never forgetting the very lives at stake for each dollar that goes to programs like USAID or PEPFAR.
We see the necessity for these programs – and the good that they do – on the ground in developing countries like Haiti, where something as routine as appendicitis in the U.S. is pretty much a death sentence when there are neither enough hospital beds to go around nor money to pay for them.
With an average of less than one hospital bed to 1,000 patients in Haiti, an appendectomy surgery that takes no more than 2 hours in the United States is nearly impossible in a country of 11 million people. And considering 60% of the population lives under the poverty line, those in need of surgery often can’t afford to pay for care, meaning they are turned away from hospitals that do exist because their funds and resources are already stretched too far.
And that’s just one surgery. What about the thousands of women who give birth at home alone? Or the child born with cerebral palsy who is left to sit alone in a chair because his parents don’t have any resources to care for him? Or the man whose family starves to death because his broken leg puts him out of work?
In 2017, National Geographic ran a story about pharmacies run out of buckets by street vendors. Because the street vendors are not under oversight from the Haitian government, customers have no way to know for certain if the medicines they purchase are helpful or harmful. They might be taking a placebo or an antifungal to treat a bacterial issue. Can you imagine living in a world with such unreliable means of achieving health, such limited access to medical care?
In Haiti, that’s the reality. And Haiti is just one country among hundreds that face similar odds. Half of the people in the world today lack access to essential health services. Health costs have pushed approximately 100 million people into poverty. It is the goal of World Health Organization to extend health coverage to 1 billion more people by 2023 so that we will be on track to reach our Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Universal health care sounds like a lofty goal, but it starts one life at a time. The organization I work for called LiveBeyond is working determinedly to reach this goal in our community of about 200,000 people in Thomazeau, Haiti. LiveBeyond has a fully-operational clinic that sees up to 1,000 patients per week. We recently secured funding to build a surgical hospital with four fully-functioning operating rooms to service an area with no surgical services currently available.
Our maternal health program helps nearly 400 mothers deliver their babies safely each year. We are striving daily to reach the Sustainable Development Goals in our area so that no more women die in childbirth, no more children go untreated for diseases and malnutrition, and no more Haitians die of appendicitis.
And there are other great organizations also striving for these same Sustainable Development Goals all over the world. Catholic Relief Services and Doctors Without Borders are two fantastic organizations working to provide health care in other parts of Haiti. Director-General of WHO Dr. Tedros Anhanom Ghebreyesus says: “Health is a human right. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.”
Thank you, Congress, for understanding this, and for doing what it takes to pass a budget that includes funding for global aid. Together we can fight for #HealthForAll.
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