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Haiti Earthquake      
Disaster Relief

HSI responds to earthquake relief efforts in haiti

Improving Animals' Lives Following the Haiti Earthquake.

This update gives a detailed run-down of our response in Haiti.


The emergency phase of our response mission to Haiti has ended, and the members of our second on-the-ground team, in addition to providing urgent care to animals in need, have completed their assessment of the animal welfare challenges associated with the January 12 earthquake. The team's final report will help HSI/HSUS/HSVMA coalition meet the pressing animal care needs of the near term, and forge a long term agenda for advancing animal welfare in Haiti.
The long-term recovery plan is expected to include:
  • the shipment and distribution of food and supplies necessary to keep animals alive and healthy
  • financial and practical support for Haiti's crucial rabies vaccination program
  • ongoing direct animal care and treatment in Haiti
  • a rural spaying and neutering program with Christian Veterinary Mission
  • collaboration in equine care and welfare workshops
  • disaster preparedness training for Haitian veterinary personnel
  • the creation of a basic animal care infrastructure or animal services clinic
  • a program of improved care for captive animals in zoos, and
  • the hiring of veterinary personnel to staff and manage funded initiatives.

The basic challenge is one of helping animals in an impoverished nation scarred by one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the western hemisphere. In virtually every instance, those responding to animals in disaster must carry out their work with deference to the urgent human needs of the unfolding catastrophe.

In the earthquake's aftermath, there has been one searing reality confronting our response team. The troubles of animals have paled by comparison with the staggering toll of death, suffering, and loss toHaiti's human population. Several hundred thousand Haitians are dead, and thousands more are dying from wounds, injuries, and infection. Several million are homeless, displaced, and destitute. One hundred thousand may be disabled, in a nation with no prosthetics. Tens of thousands have been orphaned, in a nation where there were too many orphans before.

The Haitian earthquake was not like Hurricane Katrina, with time ticking away against the minutes and hours of the lives of thousands of pets stranded in homes and buildings throughout the strike zone in Louisiana and Mississippi. And Haiti was not the United States, with an emergency response infrastructure ready to accommodate the efforts of those who wanted to help animals.

Haiti was, instead, what it has been for a long time, an impoverished and underdeveloped nation, with different styles of pet keeping, traditional forms of subsistence agriculture incorporating animals, and a heavy reliance on horses and donkeys as beasts of burden. Before the earthquake, its animal welfare problems, grave as they were, did not greatly differ from those of dozens of nations around the world in which compassion and resources are not yet sufficient to reach the plight and the needs of suffering or neglected animals. Now, the earthquake has put a spotlight on these problems.

The fact that animals have been more or less badly off in Haiti for some time, however, does not mean that nothing can be accomplished for them now or ever. In this respect, the earthquake has done for animals what Katrina did for animals in the Gulf Coast. Just as the 2005 hurricane revealed some of the basic animal welfare deficits in the humane infrastructure of the Gulf Coast states, the 2010 earthquake has underscored the paucity and fragility of animal welfare resources in Haiti.

And just as the generosity of caring donors made it possible for HSUS to help Gulf Coast animal care organizations to "build back better," the generosity of HSI supporters has set the stage for the substantial improvement of animal care in a reconstructed Haiti.

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News from HSI Disaster Relief Team

Thursday 4th February 2010
This morning, our second team prepared to return to Santo Domingo. Nine people and four dogs will make the trip with two trucks and trailer. Before departing, they met again with representatives of Christian Veterinary Mission to transfer supplies and discuss urgent and ongoing needs.

Our responders will debrief on the long ride home. Their appraisal of animal welfare concerns will shapeour broader organizational response in the days and weeks to come.  Veterinary Care and Human Service of the Dominican Republic, and Christian Veterinary Mission, will continue to provide immediate care and assistance in Haiti, while HSI/HSUS/HSVMA organizes the next phase of our response to the animal welfare challenges of the earthquake's aftermath.

Wednesday 3rd February 2010
A second HSI team has arrived in Haiti to assess the fieldwork so far.
Now that the waves of substantial aftershocks have dissipated, thousands of people in Haiti have begun the arduous task of rebuilding their lives. Staggering to contemplate even with a wealth of resources at one's disposal, in the abject poverty of this island community the recovery and reconstruction process faces nearly insurmountable challenges.
As the displaced congregated in Port-au-Prince, a myriad of tent cities began to appear throughout the area. What were once parks and town squares are now overcrowded, bustling camps; shelters made from tents, tarps and sheets are the only housing available to many of the affected residents. Piles of refuse and streams of sewage cover the streets and sidewalks.Garbage is disposed of through incineration of heaps of plastic bottles, fruit rinds, discarded meat and debris, filling the air with a white haze and pungent smell. Parents and children resort to bathing in the street using buckets of cloudy water.
Among these sprawling Bedouin-like encampments, the street dogs of Port-au-Prince began to gather. As scraps of moldy food are discarded, the malnourished animals waste no time in recovering them. They scour the grounds for any edible remnants. Our team visited one of the many camps to assess the numbers and needs of the animals in the area around this tent city. Many of the dogs we encountered were gentle and quite approachable. Several could evenbe held. HSI volunteer Dr. Megan Hlusko provided some preliminary medical evaluations, treated the dogs for parasites and provided some injectable nutritional supplements. As our team leader, Dave Pauli, commented, by helping animals, we're helping people too because treating these dogs for parasites reduces the risk of their transmission to humans.
Tuesday 2nd February 2010
HSI team vaccinates a dog in HaitiThe full disaster relief team assembled in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Saturday 30th, for the second phase of our animal response mission, most team members traveling by road from the Dominican Republic.
Visiting the U.S. Embassy, the team determined that the USAID and the USDA were effectively dealing with the safe transportation of pets of evacuating U.S. families.  Team members also met with representatives of an airline, a contact that might prove helpful should it become necessary to transport animals out of Haiti in the future.
The team also returned to the mission that had housed the Katrina dogs Bella and Dieter, where veterinary personnel examined and wormed three staff members' dogs. Then, at a major market/camping area, the team caught and treated six street dogs. They also met some more missionaries who invited them to schedule a visit to their ranch to inspect the health and condition of animals and tell more about our work.
On Sunday, the team made its second visit to a zoo operated by Baptist missionaries. Overwhelmed by the needs of the surrounding human population, they welcomed the offer to assist with the animals. For the birds, the team suggested a better diet, cleaned and reworked cages and space, and provided items for enrichment. The team expanded the primate pen to offer twice the previous amount of space and added enrichment opportunities there as well. Finally, the rabbit hutches were fixed and sharp wire removed from the goat pens.  In all, they helped approximately 50 animals on the visit. The team is working to locate and arrange for the transport of additional supplies and food for animals at the facility.
In between assignments, team members arranged meetings with regional mayors, agricultural producers, and other stakeholders, to work out a plan for near and long term follow up on animal welfare assessments.  The team's schedule also included a visit to a damaged granary to help with an assessment of necessary repairs and the potential for local production of animal feed, currently scarce.
Meanwhile, everyone was delighted to hear that two dogs belonging to a U.S. family had made it safely to Florida and enjoyed a happy reunion, thanks to the work of HSI/HSUS/HSVMA.
Friday 29th January 2010
Yesterday the team went to the U.S. Embassy and found some soon-to-be evacuated families concerned about their pets; we will do what we can to help.
The organization Save the Children learned we were here in Haiti and asked for our help in addressing an issue at a children's hospital in Port-au-Prince. A number of dogs have been showing up at night on the grounds and going through garbage. One dog in particular was getting into everything, including supplies. Our team responded today and our paramedic/animal-handler extraordinaire Lloyd Brown managed to finally catch her. The dog, Hai-chien,is very sweet and our team has fallen in love with her. We'll find a good home for her and she'll be in our care until then. 
We continue to work closely with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) and expect that two of their staff will join our group on Friday. One focus of our work together will be helping the working horses and donkeys of Haiti. Finally, our meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture is scheduled fortomorrow, Wednesday. CVM will join us then in talking to the Ministry's Head Veterinarian.
Thursday 28th January 2010
Humane Society International's team on the ground in Haiti continues its work of helping animals in distress, coordinating response with other relief agencies, and setting the stage for the second wave of HSI response. Additional HSI and HSUS responders will reach Haiti by the weekend, through the Dominican Republic, to reinforce our mission and replace members of the first team, which arrived in Haiti on Thursday 21 January. HSI staff members are also on the ground in the Dominican Republic marshaling vehicles and supplies for deployment.

The team has noticed a significant rise in evacuation of citizens from Port-au-Prince to the surrounding countryside, with horses and donkeys being used to transport people and their belongings. The overloading and overworking of such animals has become an immediate problem, and HSI will make their welfare a high priority in the days ahead, for these equines are playing an essential role in the lives of ordinary Haitians trying to save themselves and their families.

The team has also forged a friendly relationship with personnel from the Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM), which has a longstanding presence in Haiti and other developing nations. Together with representatives from CVM, the HSI team will confer with officials of Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture about the most urgent animal welfare priorities stemming from the crisis.

Wednesday 27 January 2010
Yesterday the HSI team met with Christian Veterinary Mission (CVM) to exchange ideas. CVM has a long history of working in Haiti, knows the culture well, and shared useful information with us, including the fact that before the disaster, the Haitian government had been working to vaccinate the country's approximately 500,000 dogs and cats through free community clinics. The government would like to continue this project in the countryside and unaffected areas of the country as soon as possible; this is something we are hoping to help with.

Finally, a large part of the city population is now making its way to the countryside, with horses and donkeys being used as transport. We are monitoring the health and welfare of these animals closely.

HSI and CVM have a joint meeting scheduled today with the Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry with responsibility for all animals in Haiti. There, we will discuss what the ministry believes we can do to assist further now and in the long term.

Monday 25 January 2010
After crossing last Thursday evening, the team had to deal with a flat tire, two aftershocks and their truck overheating. Fortunately, they were finally directed to their lodging for the night by two helpful local men whom they then hired to join the group as guides. As they drove into the country, they saw cattle grazing in fields, stray dogs and rubble everywhere. People are still fearful of getting too close to buildings in case of further collapse.

On Friday the team traveled to a site where tent cities had been set up and found many more dogs wandering around the area. AsideHSI team checks Haiti Zoo from being hungry, the animals encountered there seemed to be in OK condition, but starvation, dehydration and disease remain threats' especially to the injured.

Our vet Rebecca, paramedic Lloyd and the rest of our group attempted to get to the U.S. Embassy, but the lines were so long they gave up temporarily. They did attend a meeting of Interaction, a coalition of non-governmental organizations of which HSI is a member, where security issues were discussed. Rebecca reported, ' The local people are amazing! In spite of the horror surrounding them, their hospitality goes above and beyond. Some won't accept gifts because we are helping their country.' 

In a late-evening report from the team, we learned that after assessing conditions at the zoo, responders visited a town outside of Port-au-Prince called Croix-des-Bouquets to check on the farm animal situation.  There, they saw goats, chickens and horses.  All appeared okay, but many structures for housing animals were in ruin throughout the area.  Our responders plan to visit another town about two hours outside of Port-au-Prince called Leogane to check on farm animals there as well.

Meanwhile, doctors from a New York hospital working on the ground in Haiti have asked for our team's help in reviewing the human situation in these outer towns as well, since many of the humanitarian groups don't have vehicles or access out of Port-au-Prince such as we have managed to obtain. Some believe there may still be people' alive' buried under the rubble in these smaller towns.

Finally, our team plans to explore the rumor that dogs are eating human cadavers. The local people have heard talk of this and will guide them to the location where it is said to be happening.

We've discovered that we are one of the better-prepared groups on the ground in Port-au-Prince, so we have been working with humanitarian and other organizations to provide supplies and conduct assessments in outer areas. This morning our responders provided medical supplies to doctors working in the capital, and then headed out to the Quiskeya University to check out reports of large numbers of animals on site. The Metro Boston disaster medical assistance team stationed there helped us conduct an assessment of the area. Fortunately, we encountered no injured animals.

Afterwards we left for Leogane, an area considered one of the worst affected in the country. After viewing the devastation' building flattened, many people dead and displaced' we agree that it could possibly be in worse shape than Port-au-Prince. We spoke with farmers there and discovered that their horses and cattle had survived the earthquake in pretty good shape, but there were concerns about the effect of the disaster on their health, energy, and milk production going forward. We're exploring the possibilities for a long-term husbandry project in this region.

Friday 22 January 2010
A team of trained veterinary experts representing Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assn, arrived in Haiti on Thursday evening (21st) to provide aid to animals affected by last week's earthquake.

"Humane Society International is now on the scene of this horrific tragedy, moving to provide assistance to animals who may be injured or starving after last week's earthquake, and laying the groundwork for bringing more resources into play where they are needed," said Kelly O'Meara, director of HSI's companion animals division. "HSI expects to deploy additional people and supplies to Port-au-Prince based on our team's assessment."

The HSI/HSUS/HSVMA field responders include a French-speaking veterinarian and a paramedic trained in disaster response and animal handling. The HSI team is working with a group in the Dominican Republic, Veterinary Care & Human Services, Caribbean Project. Two veterinary technicians and a military escort from VCHS will also join the group.

The team will provide immediate animal care as it can, and also assess conditions for animals in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. As circumstances permit, the experts will also advise emergency and relief workers on extra steps they might take in the coming days to alleviate the suffering of animals while the desperate work to help the island's human population continues.     

Wednesday 20 January 2010
Amid the fast-changing and round-the-clock relief efforts for Haiti, Humane Society International has assembled a team of trained veterinary experts to enter Port au Prince in the coming 48 hours. The team representing HSI, The HSUS and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assn., is partnering with a group in the Dominican Republic, Veterinary Care & Humane Services, Caribbean Project (VCHS).

Our field team includes a French-speaking veterinarian and a paramedic trained in disaster response and animal handling. They will be accompanied by two veterinary technicians from VCHS and a translator.

The team will provide immediate animal care as it can, and also assess conditions for animals in the capitol city and surrounding areas. As circumstances permit, our experts will also advise emergency and relief workers on extra steps they might take in the coming days to alleviate the suffering of animals while the desperate work to help the people of Haiti continues.

Monday 18 January 2010
Like you, all of us at Humane Society International are deeply saddened by the reports of death and destruction in Haiti caused by Tuesday's massive earthquake. We're grateful that government and relief agencies are mobilizing to assist the hundreds of thousands of people in need of water, medical care, and shelter.

And as with any disaster of this magnitude, animals are also suffering and in dire need of care. To try to help these animals, here is what our international colleagues in HSI are doing right now:

  • Working with Sociedad Dominicana para la Prevención de Crueldad a los Animales, which is based in the Dominican Republic and has offered to get a team of animal responders and veterinarians into Haiti;
  • Sending a veterinarian trained in disaster response associated with our partner organization, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, to the Dominican Republic to spearhead our assessment;
  • Joined the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti, and will be working with the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other partner groups on a coordinated response to this crisis;
  • Communicated with humanitarian relief agencies and are poised to address the security, transportation, housing, and supply challenges that accompany deployment.

As you read this, we remain uncertain about how we will be able to respond to the crisis in Haiti, but I can tell you that we will do everything we can to help that country's people and animals in the coming days.

Statement from HSI Australia ' “ Thursday 14 January 2010                                                 

Haiti's earthquake has devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince and left tens of thousands of people dead or seriously injured. The final death toll from the 7.0 quake could be well over 100,000 according to Haitian Prime Minister, with an international aid effort now in a race against time to pull survivors from the ruins.

HSI extends its deepest sympathies to the victims and their families of the earthquake. Our thoughts are with all Haitians during this difficult time.

The animal victims of this disaster will need our help. HSI Australia is liaising with our international colleagues to see how our Disaster Relief team can be mobilised to help the domestic animals and wildlife affected by this tragedy. Our international colleagues are also liaising closely with emergency relief officials from international agencies and the Haitian government so we can be ready to step in as required.

We will provide further news and information on the impact of the disaster on animal relief efforts as it comes in.

Web: AndreasLustig.com