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Learning From Animal Relief In Haiti

It’s been just over a year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Looking back, there’s been some progress in helping recover and rebuild – but support for the four-legged victims of the disaster has been far beyond what anyone expected.

The Animal Relief Coalition for Haiti (ARCH) is celebrating surpassing its goals in helping animal victims.  ARCH is an animal relief coalition of 21 organizations from around the world, led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).  IFAW led the formation of ARCH following the Haiti earthquake with 2 goals:  to assist animal victims of the quake and to prevent the spread of disease from animals to humans in a very vulnerable time.


dogs in haiti

ARCH has been highly successful in achieving these 2 goals.  They’ve worked with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment to treat tens of thousands of animals (ranging from dogs and cats to pigs and goats), build solar-powered vaccine storage units across Haiti, conduct animal welfare public awareness campaigns and more. 

According to IFAW’s Emergency Relief Director, Dr. Ian Robinson, ARCH has exceeded its goals by over 200%.  "Considering the vital importance of animals in the welfare of Haitian families, we are happy to report that our Mobile Veterinary Clinic has now treated over 50,000 animals—far-exceeding the 14,000 mark we had set as our initial goal,” he said.

There are 3 really remarkable things about this work:

1)  ARCH is a great example of quick and efficient disaster response.  The organization did not exist prior to the earthquake, and in just one year has made huge strides.  50,000 animals treated?  That is no small feat, especially in a disaster-struck environment. 

2)  ARCH did not choose between animal aid or human aid – they provided animal relief that helps the human situation as well.  It’s easy to forget how interconnected all living things are and to focus on one or the other.  ARCH, however, looked at the bigger picture, saw potential human health crises down the road and incorporated prevention of human problems into their immediate relief efforts for animals.

3)  Though ARCH is a temporary organization, their work will provide benefits for years.  In addition to immediate assistance like vaccines and treatment, ARCH has also provided infrastructure to empower future efforts.  They conducted a dog and cat population and attitudinal survey in Port-au-Prince to educate future work, built storage facilities for vaccines rather than simply dispensing them, and worked with government agencies to make systematic change. 

"The goal for us has been to provide aid to as many animals as possible and have a long-lasting impact for the people of Haiti," added Dr. Robinson.  "By working closely with the government, we have enabled them to continue the important work in diagnostics and control of diseases through new and improved infrastructure to carry out vaccination campaigns."  Quick response, solutions for both animals and people, plus short- and long-term change.  That’s powerful stuff.

Huge kudos go to ARCH, their partner organizations and all the people who have helped make this work a reality.  It’s a great example of teamwork, big thinking and quick response in emergency – something many other relief organizations could learn from.


If you liked this, you might also like:

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  Retired Greyhounds going to prison

Photo by WSPAInternational (an ARCH member) on Flickr and used with Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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