Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake left an estimate of 250,000 residences either destroyed or severely damaged, this in an already impoverished country.
In 2013, just as Haiti was beginning to find a gradual path toward recovery and reconstruction, the Chikungunya virus, a mosquito-borne virus that is endemic to Thailand and that had been advancing westward at a quick pace since 2009, arrived in Haiti.
At the moment, the Chikungunya infection has no specific treatment or vaccine. Instead, general medication, as well as rest and fluids, are used to reduce the infection’s symptoms, which include fever and sometimes severe joint pains. It’s been documented that the symptoms of the Chikungunya infection on average last two to seven days, but can also remain for weeks, months and even years following infection.
In May 2013, the first instance of the Chikungunya virus was reported in Haiti. Following this, the virus rapidly spread across the island in an outbreak that prompted the Haitian government to formally declare a medical emergency. Since this outbreak, health officials believe that up to 50 per cent of the Haitian population may be affected by the disease. As of September 2014, approximately 65,000 cases of Chikungunya infection have been reported in Haiti.
The severity of the outbreak in Haiti, in addition to the fact that, at the moment, there is no known vaccine to treat Chikungunya, has inspired a significant amount of aid from international governments, as well as relief organizations.
Notably in September 2014, Direct Relief, a nonprofit medical organization, organized the successful shipment of a significant quantity of medicines to the Port-au-Prince in Haiti. The shipment included enough medicines to treat one million people, or one in ten Haitians. It included 6.1 million daily doses of pain relievers, oral rehydration packs, antibiotics, IV solution, malaria tablets, and mosquito spray, all of which has and will continue to help enormously in both combating the spread of the Chikungunya disease in Haiti, as well as aiding those who are infected.
As one can imagine, a medical donation as significant as this required the support of generous contributors. Among those contributors was Canadian-based generic pharmaceutical company, Apotex Inc., which donated more than $2.2 million of the $2.6 million in medical aid to Haiti. 26 pallets of Apotex-supplied medication was flown from their facilities directly to Haiti and put to immediate use in clinics and hospitals across the country.
Apotex has a significant history of giving back to communities. The Apotex Foundation, setup over 25 years ago has donated over $50 million in medicines thus far. In addition to Apotex’s work with Direct Relief, in 2013, Apotex donated $10 million to the construction of the new Humber River Hospital’s emergency room in Toronto.
Choosing to help Haiti in the country’s struggle to halt the outbreak of Chikungunya was a very simple decision for the company.
"When a fast-spreading virus like chikungunya impacts people who already struggle to access health care, it is important to provide hospitals and clinics with the supplies they need to meet the growing demand for care," said Jeff Watson, Apotex's President, US and Canada (Apotex Corp/Aveva/Apotex Inc.) "Apotex [was] in a position to help, and we [were] delighted to work with Direct Relief to fill those gaps."
For more information on contribution efforts or to donate yourself, visit Direct Relief’s website here.