July 12, 2010
WSPA- and IFAW-led coalition has treated more than 25,000 animals and is helping to re-build Haiti’s veterinary infrastructure
BOSTON, MA – Following the January 12 earthquake, a number of humanitarian organizations came to the aid of the Haitian people. But only one coalition took on the challenge of addressing the needs of the surviving animal population. The Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH,) which was formed just days after the quake by the World Society of the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW,) has treated more than 25,000 animals in the hardest-hit areas of the country.
“We formed ARCH in an effort to better coordinate the work of animal welfare groups. As one coalition, we then worked very closely with Haitian government officials, the United Nations and other international agencies to define the country’s most pressing animal-related problems,” said Gerardo Huertas, disaster operations director for the Americas at WSPA. “That first step of building a solid working relationship with all key stakeholders was critical to ARCH being able to deliver aid quickly, to as many animals as possible. And it has enabled us to work together in developing a long-term plan for Haitians to better protect themselves – and their animals – against future disasters.”
Surpassing Goals for Animal and Human Welfare in Haiti
In post-disaster Haiti, the welfare of the animal population is of vital importance. Not only do many Haitians rely on animals for their economic well-being, but the spread of disease from animal to human is a very real threat.
“In Haiti, it’s important to approach animal welfare from a human welfare aspect because, by vaccinating every animal, we are not only helping the animals, but also thousands of people,” said Kevin Degenhard, project manager for ARCH and chief superintendent at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
After the earthquake, Degenhard – along with Dr. Jean Francois Thomas, a veterinarian in Haiti for more than 20 years – trained a local team of three veterinarians, three vet technicians and two security personnel. The backbone of the operation is ARCH’s mobile veterinary clinic, which allows the team to travel into earthquake-stricken neighborhoods and provide aid and vaccinations to thousands of dogs, cats, goats, cattle, horses and other animals.
“Our original goal was to treat 14,000 animals in one year. But, in the first two months, our team of 10 people had already treated 12,700 animals. Today, we’ve far surpassed the 25,000 mark. I’m just so impressed with the way we all came together as a team,” added Degenhard.
Re-building and Educating the Haitian Community
ARCH has also begun repairing the wall around Haiti’s National Veterinary Laboratory and main lab infrastructure, which fell during the earthquake, and are about to install 24 solar-powered refrigeration units, which are critical to storing animal vaccinations. And, while early results are encouraging, the coalition knows that a long-lasting solution is only possible through continued animal welfare education.
“The more people we inform – either through the public medium or through schools – the more people are actually going to have their animals treated,” said Degenhard. “And, if people see that we’re helping them to prevent disease in animals, and disease in themselves, then I think they’ll embrace further developments in animal care as years go by in this country.”
Later this month, ARCH will launch a public awareness campaign to educate Haitians about disaster preparedness, pet care and health issues related to their pets and families. It is also currently conducting Haiti’s first-ever dog and cat survey, which will help establish a baseline for evaluating the country’s pet population, incidence of rabies, lab equipment need and other factors.
No matter what challenges the country may face in the future, ARCH is confident that the people of Haiti will be much better prepared. “January 12 was a very strong wake-up call for everybody in the country; we will never let ourselves be caught by surprise again,” said Thomas.
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The Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) is jointly led by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in partnership with over a dozen of the world’s leading animal protection organizations. At present, ARCH partners include: World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), American Humane Association, Best Friends Animal Society, RSPCA (UK), In Defense of Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Foundation, Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society, ASPCA, United Animal Nations, Kinship Circle, One Voice, Swiss Animal Protection, Palo Alto Humane Society (PAHS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Associations, Animal Medical Care Foundation (AMCF).
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