From a warehouse in Dubai to a hospital in Haiti: a journey of lifesaving supplies

October 2016

WHO has sent urgently needed medical supplies and medicines to Haiti to combat cholera, malaria and other diseases in communities struck by Hurricane Matthew.

This photo story traces the journey of these supplies - from the immediate needs assessment made by the PAHO/WHO team in collaboration with the WHO Operations, Support and Logistics team and the Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai where the goods are stored, all the way to the Hôpital Immaculée Conception in Les Cayes where they are being used to treat people and save lives in the hospital’s cholera treatment centre and emergency clinic.


WHO/PAHO/D. Spitz
WHO/PAHO/D. Spitz

As soon as Hurricane Matthew has passed, a PAHO/WHO team of experts make a rapid assessment of damage in the 4 most-affected departments in the southwest of Haiti. Their mission is to find out what health services are still accessible and where support is needed most urgently. Field teams report huge devastation, with roads flooded and many homes and buildings destroyed or extensively damaged, including hospitals in Jeremie and Les Cayes. The teams determine a high risk of increased infectious diseases such as cholera.


WHO/PAHO/D. Spitz

WHO/PAHO teams work closely with the Ministry of Health to coordinate the humanitarian response. Disease surveillance reports of increased cholera cases in the days following the hurricane cause serious concern, given the interrupted water supply and poor sanitation. The Operations, Support and Logistics team in WHO’s new Health Emergencies Programme liaises with the Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai to bring together supplies and medicines to prevent and treat diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera, as well as malaria and other diseases including HIV.


WHO/N. Attalla

In the Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai, the team prepares the supplies destined for Haiti. This shipment contains 3 Interagency Emergency Health Kits (IEHK). Each kit with enough essential medicines and supplies to treat 10 000 people for common diseases for 3 months, 4 Interagency Diarrhoeal Disease Kits (IDDK), each with supplies to treat 100 severe cases of cholera and 400 moderate cases as well as a complete set of supplies to establish a cholera treatment centre. Nine supplementary modules are added to the IEHKs which also contain supplies to combat malaria (including 800 diagnosis tests, 390 malaria treatments and 2000 quinine tablets) and enough medication to treat 150 people for post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infections. When natural disasters strike, there is often an increased risk of HIV infection due to a lack of access to reproductive health services and a rise in sexual violence.

The shipment leaves the HRD premises on 12 October and is loaded on a donated flight from the United Arab Emirates that departs on 13 October for a journey of more than 12 000km.


WHO/C. Lindmeier

Just hours after the supplies land in Port-au- Prince, Haiti, PAHO/WHO staff meet on the tarmac to inspect the shipment. Close collaboration with the Directorate for Civil Protection in Haiti allows fast release of the goods through simplified customs procedures for humanitarian goods, a process that can sometimes take weeks. The supplies are sent immediately to the PROMESS warehouse in Port-au- Prince. PROMESS has been administered by PAHO/WHO for the provision of essential medicines and supplies in Haiti since 1992.


The following day, at the PROMESS warehouse in Port-au- Prince, the shipment from Dubai is sorted by the PAHO/WHO response team of pharmacists and logisticians and supplemented with other donated supplies. Software called SUMA is used to keep an inventory of all supplies and generate maps such as this one to show what supplies will be distributed to which location.


WHO/PAHO/J. Venegas

The supplies are loaded onto 2 trucks destined for Les Cayes and Jeremie. These communes have been hit hard by Hurricane Matthew and have had a significant increase in cholera cases and deaths. Access to clean water and sanitation was already poor in rural areas and hurricane damage has worsened the situation.


WHO/C. Lindmeier

The next morning, the PAHO/WHO truck loaded with urgently needed medical supplies and medicines joins a convoy of humanitarian deliveries to Les Cayes, secured by special police and military units from MINUSTAH, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Armed UN escorts protect convoys from being obstructed or looted on the 7-hour journey to the south-western departments.


WHO/C. Lindmeier

The supplies arrive in the temporary warehouse of the World Food Programme in Les Cayes where PAHO/WHO staff inspect and verify the stock.


WHO/C. Lindmeier

Following the requests of the regional health authorities in the Department du Sud, PAHO/WHO staff divide the deliveries and prepare them to be sent to 2 health facilities with the most immediate needs in Randell and Chantal, as well as to the central hospital in Les Cayes.


WHO/C. Lindmeier
WHO/C. Lindmeier
WHO/PAHO/D. Spitz

On the same day that the goods arrive in Les Cayes, the director of the Hôpital Immaculée Conception in Les Cayes receives the urgently awaited medical supplies and medicines. They are put to immediate use to treat patients both in the hospital’s emergency clinic and the cholera treatment centre which currently receives an average of 5 new patients a day. Supplies to set up a new cholera treatment centre are also airlifted to the town of Randell which was nearly completely destroyed.

Thanks to the collaboration of many teams across PAHO and WHO, partners, donors and national authorities, these supplies have taken just 5 days from the initial request to reach their final destination where they are helping to save lives.

This page links all WHO technical and general information on Hurricane Matthew in Haiti in 2016.

Q&A: Cholera