Haiti is perhaps the poorest nation in the entire Western hemisphere. Recent earthquakes and hurricanes have decimated the country with the economy struggling to survive. Outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, the infrastructure is incredibly poorly maintained and it is difficult to get around. In 2015 the US Navy kick started a mission known as Continuing Promise. This was a humanitarian mission which aimed to help those who were in critical need following the dreadful natural disaster events of recent times.
One of these missions, in Haiti, involved the US Army’s Veterinary Corps and the United States non governmental organization World Vets. They were traveling around 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to look after the region’s pets. The mission lasted for five months.
When the group arrived at their destination, they set up a mobile MASH unit (Military Army Surgical Hospital) especially intended for pets and other animals. Emergency operating tables and all sorts of necessary equipment were prepared to help people and their animals. A translator was ready at hand to ask people to come along. They came in their droves, with people queuing for a long time in order to see the vets.
In Haiti there are upwards or 1.2 million pets and yet there is no veterinary infrastructure. The vets at the MASH unit carried out a range of different tasks, from vaccinations to neutering and deworming. They were at the site for 2 days before moving on to the next location. They were thankfully able to see lots of pets over the period and people were very grateful indeed.
Once they had finished the team packed up their ‘MASH for cats’ and embarked upon the last leg of their journey, boarding the USNS Comfort, which would return them to the United States after their 5 month journey. It might seem strange for the army to have a veterinary corps and indeed they are the only service to have one. They are however a vital part of the service, especially when it comes to humanitarian aid.
We value our pets hugely and this is none less the case in places that are in desperate need of help. In Haiti, cats were injected against rabies. It was clear that they had been under a lot of stress and some had been suffering from malnutrition and had wounds or had tro put up with fleas. It is hopeful that similar missions will be able to take place in the future. They are a vital service.