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November 1, 2012

Finding Common Ground: One Health Conference in Haiti

Why animal health and welfare matter in the developing world

Humane Society International

  • HSI's "One Health" conference in Port au Prince attracted over 80 attendees from different organizations and government agencies. Patrick Romulus

  • Field clinics are crucial to the success of any animal and human health program, and the latest clinic held in October 2012 reached over 100 animals in need of care. Amelia Muccio/HSI

  • The clinic also represented a great opportunity to deliver the message of the importance of animal health to young children at school. Patrick Romulus

by Amelia Muccio

According to the World Health Organization, there are over 200 zoonotic agents globally, including bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses. Zoonotic diseases (diseases transmitted from animals to humans) cause millions of human deaths worldwide, mostly in the developing world. This inequitable burden of disease is preventable and is a critical focus for the improvement of human and animal health. 

"One Health"

An inclusive and holistic approach to human and animal health was the key message at HSI's "One Health" Conference held on October 24, 2012 in Port au Prince. The conference spotlighted the critical interdependencies between human and animal health, striving to bring focus on important issues in animal health and welfare through the lens of successful public health and livelihood strategies that improve the lives of humans and animals. As Amelia Muccio, HSI's Haiti Project Director, explained, "human health is improved by successful animal health/welfare interventions. Therefore, it is imperative that humanitarian groups engage veterinarians in their campaigns."

The conference featured speakers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Heifer International and Humane Society International. The agenda was broken into several key themes: 

  • Healthier Tomorrows addressed rabies and zoonotic disease transmission
  • Livelihoods discussed the importance of working equines as they represent seventy percent of goods transportation in Haiti
  • Shaping Tomorrow examined the importance of humane education for communities and schools.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion that addressed ways to strengthen integration and build partnerships in Haiti. The eighty-five attendees represented diverse backgrounds including the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Education; representatives from Haitian NGOs; physicians; and veterinarians.  

In the field

Despite having a modernized animal clinic in Haiti that offers services to Haitian animals regardless of the owner's ability to pay, HSI realizes the important role the community plays in animal health and welfare. Field clinics are perfect opportunities to treat animals and to educate the public on issues that impact their lives including the transmission of diseases, how to avoid dog bites, and what to do if you are bitten by a dog. In the case of rabies, this education can truly be the difference between life and death. 

J/P HRO was established in the wake of the 2010 earthquake and is highly regarded for its timely and effective humanitarian assistance. On October 29, 2012, sporting our new Big Dog tee shirts, HSI partnered with Sean Penn’s NGO to deliver a medical field clinic for animals in their camp. The one day clinic treated over 100 animals and provided vaccinations, dewormer, medical care and surgery. HSI also provided education to students at their school on the importance of human and animal health and welfare. 

Healthy animals for a healthy life

The "One Health" conference and J/P HRO field clinic demonstrated that human health in theory and practice needs to involve animal health. Human and animal health are intertwined in the developing world and successful interventions need to address both sides of this delicate equation. While humans and animals may compete for resources in developing countries, there is a symbiotic relationship as well -- this symbiotic relationship demands public health interventions that focus on both human and animal health. 

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