Haiti and the Haitian people have endured much of the worst humanity has to offer – slavery, foreign exploitation, geopolitical manipulation, natural disasters, and persistent internal conflict over the distribution of political and economic resources.

While the majority of Haitians are the ones who actually suffer, relentless crises have created among many in the global community a kind of Haiti fatigue. Governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) alike are wary of further involvement and investment in Haiti.

Now is the time to put those feelings aside. A new chapter in the Haiti saga is about to be written, and it could be as calamitous as anything we’ve seen to date.


Haiti’s geology, geography and location place it squarely in the crosshairs of climate change. Its mountainous terrain, much of it denuded through deforestation, is vulnerable to soil erosion and flooding. Haiti’s situation in a hurricane belt places it at the center of potential catastrophe when the elements combine.

According to the European Union’s Database for Global Atmospheric Research, Haiti is responsible for just .03% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, and .01% of all CO2 emissions. Haiti’s per capita GHG and CO2 emissions are similarly very low.


Haiti is also among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate impacts.

Given that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for 70% of all global industrial global greenhouse gas emissions, the likelihood of future climate disasters in Haiti is not only sadly ironic, it is profoundly inequitable and unjust.


Health care is one of the most carbon-intensive service industries in the world, and emissions from U.S. health care institutions are on the rise. While not as dominant as fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from healthcare are a growing health threat . Remarkably, “health damages” from U.S. health care facilities in recent years have been on the same order of magnitude as deaths from preventable medical errors.

In Haiti,Konbit Sante’s efforts to introduce clean, renewable and reliable power at our partner hospitals and clinics are designed to contribute to better health care outcomes. Sadly, little that we or our partners do on the ground to green the electrical systems or improve waste management will impact the climate picture at sufficient scale to make a difference, nor is there time.

An industry like health care, focused on saving lives, should not be a significant cause of climate-related illness and death. Those of us concerned with health care, and indeed equity, must rally support within the health care industry in developed countries to reduce its environmental impact and thus the potential for climate catastrophe.



Recent and future storm events point to the need for both resiliency planning and efficiency investments at hospitals and other health care facilities. Cleaner energy sources and systems, smaller hospital campus footprints, more efficient transport of materials and people, more efficient construction methods and materials, greener supply chains, superior waste management programs, indeed all of the tools and techniques familiar to most of us will play an essential role in lessening the impact of health care operations on the climate.

Awareness of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the health care industry can help prioritize action steps to be taken by health care institutions. For the sake of Haiti and other countries most likely to bear the brunt of frequent climate crises, it is essential that health care institutions in advanced industrialized countries do more and do it sooner to lessen their impact on climate change.


These initiatives and the significant costs associated with them are not only a matter of public health, they are a matter of equity. Haiti’s suffering has been much discussed, much exploited and much ignored. The continuing threat of natural disaster and now the man-made catastrophe of climate change seem particularly unjust, given Haiti’s minuscule contributions to global emissions.

Mainers have just experienced firsthand the impact of storms made more intense by climate change. We have the resources to respond to natural disasters as well as to be proactive, for example, with respect to sources of energy. Despite internal conflict, Haiti, too, is making efforts to green its power grid

But the specter of climate catastrophe looms large.

Those of us in a position to support the Haitian people in their continuing efforts to build a safe and sustainable country must take action. In the healing of Haiti we must first, following the admonishment of the Greek physician Galen, do no further harm.

It is a matter of justice and equity, and the Haitian people deserve nothing less.

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