Rather than simply treating the diseases of tropical poverty in isolation, Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti (or HAS Haiti) has always attempted to address wider causes of disease, through clean-water and irrigation initiatives, and support for individual and community economic development. Malnutrition has been an endemic condition since the founding of HAS Haiti in 1956. This issue is a reflection of the unpredictable ecological conditions in the region.
Highly variable rain patterns, a shallow soil structure, and a declining water table all contribute to an environment of significant food insecurity. In this way, Haiti's deforestation has had a direct, negative impact on the people's economic status, and accordingly the health and quality of life of the Haitian people.
This relationship was particularly evident in the wake of the sweep of hurricanes that hit Haiti during the summer of 2008, which caused an unprecedented number of malnutrition cases throughout the small country.
HAS Haiti's experience with malnutrition in 2008 and 2009 showed that unpredictable environmental conditions can seriously disrupt normal food production and food security, particularly in fragile communities.
This disruption can lead to any number of consequences for the small communities that HAS serves. Really, many of the diseases of tropical poverty-malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS-might be directly attributed to Haiti's environmental problems. Trees provide crucial soil retention for steeper hillside crops, reducing flood damage and decreasing erosion. The shade provided by growing trees is shown to help stimulate the growth of many different crops, even in the dry season. Trees also provide lumber and charcoal, and are thus also a valuable source of revenue.
The Friends of HAS Haiti initiated the HAS Haiti Timber Re-Introduction Project (HTRIP) as a collaborative effort with HAS, and it was a logical extension of HAS's mission to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Haiti's Artibonite Valley. HTRIP is designed to address environmental, economic and health needs.