In early October, Hurricane Mathew hit Haiti, leaving the country and its inhabitants in a state of despair. Often in times of natural disaster, people get the bulk of our attention and sympathy while animals get forgotten. One organization, however, shows us that animals and people are not disconnected when it comes to tragedies like this. In fact, if you want to help the people, you’ve got to help the animals too.
Just as it did with the 2010 earthquake, Humane Society International (HSI) sprang into action and sent in a team of animal rescuers and veterinarians to help treat animals in Haiti. After treating 282 animals on their first visit, they sent in a second team last week to help set up an emergency vet clinic to help treat and feed more animals in need.
Providing Emergency Veterinary Care to Animals in Haiti
In the aftermath of a hurricane, the animals who do survive are left to live in flooded or unsanitary places where they often end up injured, infected, and malnourished. To help them overcome this situation, HSI set up an emergency vet clinic on their second visit, from which they just returned, to enable them to be strong and healthy. Working alongside local groups 4 Patté, World Horse Welfare Association, and Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture, HSI set up emergency vet clinics in Haiti’s hardest hit areas and began de-worming, vaccinating, and providing vitamins for animals.
Most of the animals treated were donkeys, horses, goats, pigs, and cows, but there were cats and dogs in need of help as well. And many of the animals who wound up in an emergency clinic were often severely injured, requiring urgent care and attention. In under a week, the vets helped more than 1,200 animals in four different communities.
Language Barriers and Other Challenges
Language, according to Dr. Claudia Edwards, campaign director for Humane Society International/Mexico, was one of the greatest challenges when helping animals in Haiti.
‘’People in Haiti speak Creole and it was important to explain not only what we were doing but how to continue treatment, how to prevent other diseases or injuries and how to handle the animals properly without mistreating them,’’ says Edwards. “Fortunately 4 Patté staff spoke Spanish, English, French and Creole fluently.’’
Another challenge was seeing animals with newly healed wounds forced to return to carrying loads to the market which is typically a four-hour trip. Especially when animals should have at least 10 days off to heal before carrying loads.
‘’We try to raise awareness about the importance of letting them rest and explain how to place the weight to be less damaging,’’ says Edwards. ‘’We plan to make a video for 4 Patté so that they can teach people to make efficient packsaddles, from recycled materials, to prevent chafing and injuries.’’
Yet another challenge is getting the drugs and vaccines to treat animals in Haiti. HSI plans to work with Haitian officials to work longer term in Haiti and consequently, help more animals.
Why Helping Animals in Haiti Helps the People Too
Haiti is chaotic right now. Countless people have lost everything because of the floods and many animals have died as a result of this catastrophe. Some people may say that we need to focus on helping our own species instead of others. The truth is, if we want to help our own species through this disaster, we need to help the animals too. Why? Because Haitians depend on their animals to survive. Animals help them get water, carry supplies, and go to the market. They are also a mode of transportation. In other words, if their animals are sick, the people will suffer too.
Despite all they’ve endured, HSI says they’ve never met such happy and resilient people.
“Most of the people living outside Port au Prince do not have electricity or potable water, most of them do not have a job and have to live with the little crops they managed to harvest, or sell at the local market,’’ says Edwards. “But despite the disaster, you go to any place and the people will always receive you with a big smile, they are so grateful for the help, they are happy and ready to overcome this catastrophe.”
How Can You Help?
If you want to help the animals and people suffering in Haiti, donate to HSI today. They need as much funding as possible in order to buy vaccines for anthrax, rabies, and tetanus and to get more drugs and de-wormers to Haiti. Your donation can help save lives.
Image source: Humane Society International