The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is used to responding to overwhelming pest problems and significant outbreaks in the aftermath of disasters, as it has with Hurricane Katrina and September 11th. However, as NPMA's 14-member delegation prepared for its trip to Haiti, the group wondered what the industry could possibly do to help. The problems seemed "too big." The devastation appeared "too large" and the conditions just seemed "too deplorable" to know how to help or where to even begin.
All of this however, was before the NPMA delegation met the people of Haiti and experienced their tremendous resolve. As they rebuild their land and their lives, we will assist them in their recovery by carrying out the Pest Management Pledge to protect the public health in Haiti.
Our delegation traveled to Haiti in May at the request of the Haitian Minister of Environment to assess the severe pest infestations that are threatening the country's already compromised public health problems. We are bug people - we are used to dealing with the "icky" and the "gross". It's what we are trained to do. However, no amount of training or prior experiences in Third World countries prepared us for the extraordinary pest conditions we saw in Haiti, especially in the medical facilities.
During our visit we saw mosquitoes buzzing around operating rooms. We witnessed nurses shooing rodents from recovery rooms and children's wards like they were stray cats that had wandered and needed a clap of the hands to redirect them outdoors. Cockroaches scampered across beds and floors, attracted by the offerings of human body parts and waste that sat openly in the hallways. We heard concerns from doctors who feared complications developing in patients who had flies landing on their open wounds during surgery. Roaches fed upon corpses, having no respect for dignity. We saw large openings from the outdoors right into what should have been sterile medical rooms.
The list of diseases carried by the pests and the health problems they cause is extensive. Dengue fever, malaria, E.coli, salmonella, and asthma are just a few that can make a healthy person sick - the complications and risks are obviously worse for those whose immune systems are already weak.
"Don't these highly-qualified medical practitioners realize the huge complications that could come from allowing these pests to come into contact with patients," we wondered? "Why don't they do something," we kept asking ourselves. The answers became obvious - they have no other choice. They are trying to save lives as best they can in their current situation and don't have the information, resources or time to treat or prevent pest infestations that threaten their patients.
From this realization, the Pest Management Pledge was born. The NPMA, through its members' charitable donations, is pledging resources, materials and people and is committed to spending the next year providing proper pest management structure to Haitian hospitals. We want to ensure that those who come in for medical assistance don't leave in worse shape due to a pest-transmitted disease picked up during their stay.
In addition to providing the resources needed to combat their enormous pest problems, the pest management industry is going to hire, train, guide and mentor Haitian employees to treat the hospitals. These hired personnel will be compensated through funds raised for the Pest Management Pledge and will inject a much-needed revenue stream into the Haitian economy. Our job training will strengthen Haiti's pest management industry so that when we turn to help those in another area, we will have left a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, prepared with the tools to prevent escalating problems in the future. We will also develop a robust and appropriate public service campaign so that Haiti civilians will understand more about the simple actions they can take in their day-to-day lives to minimize the likelihood of infestations.
We have the resources to help the Haitian people so that hospitals become a shelter for the ill instead of a haven for disease-carrying pests. We have the resources to help train Haitian pest control companies and workers so that they can continue to treat this problem as the country continues its long road to recovery. And we have the resources to deal with these problems now, before the rainy season breeds more pests and makes the current conditions worse. The risk to public health is grave and it is our duty to decrease that risk as much as possible. Haiti needs help on so many fronts and we are proud that we can help with this one. For more information about the Pest Management Pledge, please visit http://www.npmapestworld.com/haiti.htm
Rob Lederer is the Executive Vice President of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). The NPMA, is a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.