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January 8, 2011

Haiti: One Year Later

Humane Society International

by Chris Broughton-Bossong

A year after the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Humane Society International’s efforts there face a variety of challenges above and beyond the day-to-day obstacles inherent to operating in the developing world. It has been a very delicate process to introduce animal welfare initiatives in a country where humans frequently endure an existence not too much better than that of the animals we have been trying to help. It is for this reason that we have sought to ensure that all of our program efforts focus on closing the perceived gap between animal welfare and human health interests.

This approach is consistent with what I saw when I helped assess animal-related needs in Haiti immediately following the earthquake as a member of HSI's disaster response team. I subsequently made three trips to the island and spent over a month onsite meeting with government officials, Haitian veterinarians, and representatives from other NGOs. In March 2010, I moved to Haiti to live and work here full-time. In my role as Haiti Program Coordinator for HSI, I have been tasked with coordinating and implementing the launch of five separate initiatives in the country during 2010 and 2011.

Supporting progress

HSI’s Haiti programs include establishment of the country's first animal welfare center, continuing education and training for local veterinarians, nationwide spay/ neuter and vaccination projects to address street dog overpopulation, provision of veterinary care and owner training for horses and pack animals, and lastly, development of the first Haitian veterinary disaster response team. All of these are now well underway.

Building up basics

Training Haitian veterinarians is actually fundamental to each of our programs, since helping to advance their professional skills and securing their dedication to these projects is integral to the longevity and overall success of our efforts. We recently completed the construction of a veterinary hospital at our Haiti Animal Welfare Center that will provide low-cost services to the local community. This is the first facility of its kind in Haiti. Veterinarians and technicians now have a central location where they can receive continuing education and technical training with a humane focus, something that did not exist prior to our investment of time, effort, and resources.

Getting "hands-on"

Of course, there are significant direct care components to our program as well. Our street dog vaccination and sterilization clinics address the public health concerns associated with unchecked canine populations, including rabies and intestinal parasites. Our equine welfare clinics provide opportunities for Haitian veterinarians to work within their communities to treat working equines who may otherwise receive no veterinary attention. The clinics also serve to educate the owners about proper care and nourishment of animals to improve their general health and and well-being.

Lastly, HSI is providing a variety of technical and logistical disaster mitigation and response trainings to selected Haitian veterinarians throughout the country so that they can assume larger roles in helping to respond to the natural disasters the country is inclined to suffer.

From crisis arises opportunity

In the wake of the devastation caused by the earthquake of January 12th , 2010, HSI and our partners in Haiti, including Best Friends Animal Society and Christian Veterinary Mission, gained a tremendous opportunity to provide long-term support in the form of infrastructure development in a country where it is so desperately needed.

I am honored to be able to play a part in the execution of these programs, and confident that they will flourish in the years ahead, bringing great benefit to both the animals and the people of Haiti.

Chris Brougton-Bossong is Haiti Program Coordinator for HSI.