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MSF urges donors to keep care free for Haiti quake survivors

by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) March 30, 2010
Medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) urged international donors Tuesday to ensure Haitians continue to get free health care in the wake of January's devastating earthquake.

All public and most private health providers have offered care free of charge since the January 12 quake, which killed more than 220,000 people and left hundreds of thousands with horrific injuries, many requiring amputations.

But MSF (Doctors Without Borders) warned donors meeting Wednesday in New York to hammer out the priorities of a multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort that plans were afoot to start reinstating hospital fees from mid-April.

"Making access to health care contingent upon someone's financial means would totally ignore the reality that we see in the streets and makeshift camps in Haiti," MSF emergency coordinator Karline Kleijer said in a statement.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and live in rickety huts made of plastic sheeting, tents or ruined houses, with one latrine for a few hundred people on average."

Shelter, hygiene, access to potable water and medical care remain key priorities as Haitians in squalid tent cities prepare for the rainy season and hurricanes that could usher in a second disaster.

"We have already seen large parts of camps collapsing during the recent rains," said Kleijer. "The collapse or flooding of shelters and tents could force many of the displaced to move again."

More than 100 countries and several international organizations meet Wednesday at United Nations headquarters in New York for an international donor conference on Haiti.

They will be asked for 3.8 billion dollars, which is the first installment of a total of 11.5 billion dollars required to reconstruct the shattered Caribbean nation over the next 10 years.

MSF urged those meeting in New York to consider direct financial support to bolster the health system in Haiti, where many hospitals were flattened by the quake and basic infrastructure was lacking even before the disaster.

"Haitians must have access to an efficient health system," MSF president Christophe Fournier said. "Necessary financial resources for the health structures to function cannot be drawn from the extremely precarious population."

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