January 11, 2011
WSPA-led coalition treats more than 50,000 injured animals, raises awareness of animal welfare among Haitian community and rebuilds a damaged veterinary infrastructure
BOSTON, MASS. – Immediately following the earthquake in Haiti last year, the World Society of the Protection of Animals (WSPA) co-founded the first-ever animal relief coalition, comprised of more than 20 of the world’s leading animal protection organizations. For the past year, the Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) has worked very closely with Haitian government officials, the United Nations and other international agencies to treat the country's surviving animal population and fix its broken veterinary infrastructure.
“From braving the aftershocks following the earthquake, to weathering disease outbreaks and a turbulent political situation, the ARCH team has faced numerous challenges over the past year,” said Gerardo Huertas, disaster operations director for the Americas at WSPA. “But thanks to the local administration's support and our team's determined spirit, we have accomplished some very significant achievements. In retrospect, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that this was one of the best disaster response operations for animals ever, with a strong focus on risk reduction and future preparedness from the very beginning.”
Through several immediate and long-term initiatives, ARCH has already delivered more than 75% of its aid to Haiti and seen significant results, including:
One of ARCH's first priorities after the earthquake was to treat and vaccinate Haiti's surviving animal population. Working closely with Dr. Jean Francois Thomas, a veterinarian in Haiti for more than 20 years, the coalition trained a local team of three veterinarians, three vet technicians and two security personnel. Using a mobile veterinary clinic, the team traveled into earthquake-stricken neighborhoods and provided aid and vaccinations to thousands of dogs, cats, goats, cattle, horses and other animals.
“When we vaccinate these animals against diseases like rabies and Newcastle, we're not only providing direct protection to the animals themselves, but also protecting people's health,” said Huertas. “For example, by treating animals for parasites, we prevented an outbreak of diarrhea, which would have worsened the cholera problem we saw later in the year.”
ARCH's original goal was to treat 14,000 animals in one year. Already, the team has treated more than 50,000 animals, with the goal of reaching 60,000 animals by March.
Prior to the earthquake, Haitians had minimal information about farm animal diseases, such as Classical swine fever, and even less on how to take care of their animals in the event of a disaster. In August, WSPA launched a public awareness campaign to educate Haitians about proper pet care, health issues related to their pets and families, and disaster preparedness.
“Through radio and TV public service announcements, posters and flyers, we are teaching people – especially children – that if they treat their animals well, then that’s a way to protect themselves,” said Huertas.
“I receive calls from pet owners all the time saying how grateful they are for the knowledge provided by our campaign,” added Dr. Thomas. “That is a very positive sign that this initiative is creating a different and improved perception of domestic animals by the Haitian community.”
During the earthquake, Haiti’s National Veterinary Laboratory and main lab infrastructure fell. Furthermore, the lab's perimeter fence – which is very important for security purposes – equipment and parasitological research was all destroyed. ARCH has not only worked to repair the lab and build a perimeter wall, but it will also replace lab equipment and supplies, once the building construction is complete.
ARCH also installed a “cold chain,” which is critical to storing animal vaccinations. Most vaccines need to be kept in temperatures between 35 and 44 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Haiti suffers from very serious electricity problems even in main cities like Port-au-Prince, so cold units – which consist of solar-powered refrigerators and freezers – are essential to providing veterinary care. ARCH purchased and installed 12 solar-powered refrigeration units that not only keep vaccines safe, but also produce ice for small coolers that are used to transport vaccinations to more remote areas.
“By focusing on both the immediate and long-term needs of the Haitian community, we have ensured that our supporters’ generosity was used both effectively and efficiently," says Huertas. "Not just to treat the animals we could spot on our first visit to Port-au-Prince, but also to help Haitians on their long and arduous road to recovery.”
ARCH´s veterinary team, which is now fully comprised of Haitian professionals, is currently working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR) to develop the capacity to continue to monitor and support animal health throughout the country. The team will be one of the best resources available on the island in the event of another disaster, because they are now fully capable of rapidly deploying and responding to animals in need.
“Jan. 12, 2010 was a very strong wake-up call for everybody in the country,” added Dr. Thomas. “Now, we are more conscious of what we have to do, and we will never let ourselves be caught by surprise again.”
Note to Editors
B-roll and images are available by request.
About The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
Through its alliance of more than 1,000 animal welfare groups – with at least one member in virtually every country of the world – WSPA works where there is the greatest need to stop animal suffering and cruelty. For more information, visit our website, follow us on Twitter and “Like” our Facebook page.
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 the 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 Human 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), Petfinder Foundation, Mayhew International and Last Chance for Animals (LCA).
To schedule an interview, request footage or for further information, please contact:
WSPA U.S. Communications Manager