Wednesday 17th November 2010
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- Haiti cholera: People ‘crying out’ for information, says British Red Cross
At least 75,000 people in Haiti have called a freephone Red Cross information line to access information on cholera. The calls came in response to a massive SMS awareness campaign carried out by the Red Cross at the beginning of the outbreak.
“The value of information should not be underestimated in response to the cholera crisis. Yes, we must focus on treatment, but if we want to stop the spread of the disease then making sure people know how to avoid infection and recognise the symptoms is critical. We can see that people are crying out for basic information” said Alastair Burnett, British Red Cross Recovery Manager, who has just returned from Haiti.
More than two million SMS were sent by the Red Cross to people living in Artibonite and Port-au-Prince, sharing simple messages about how people could limit their chances of becoming sick. Significantly, more than 75,000 people, over 20 per cent of people reached through the campaign, called the information line for more detailed advice on avoiding cholera.
As well as SMS, the Red Cross has been using its weekly radio programme (Radio Croix Rouge Haitienne), radio adverts, and sound trucks to spread cholera prevention messages. In addition, more than 1,000 trained Haitian Red Cross volunteers have been active across the country disseminating this crucial information.
As the cholera crisis continues to worsen, the British Red Cross has seen an increase in patients at its cholera observation centre at La Piste, a camp of around 50,000 people in Port-au-Prince.
“At least 300 people have been treated at the Red Cross cholera centre in La Piste since it opened on 8 November” said Borry Jatta, British Red Cross sanitation expert in Port-au-Prince.
“Due to the increasing need we are also now opening rehydration treatment points in other camps and in earthquake affected urban areas of Port-au-Prince. In the overcrowded camps the disease can spread quickly and it is essential that we have places where trained nurses are on hand to isolate and treat suspected cases” he continued.
Red Cross spokespeople are available on the ground in Haiti
Notes to editors
• The British Red Cross manages teams of Haitian hygiene promoters who are working with camp residents to ensure an appropriate level of health awareness so that symptoms can be quickly identified.
• In response to the increasing emergency, large shipments of oral rehydration solution, and thousands of bars of soap and water purification tablets have been arriving in country. The Red Cross hospitals in Carrefour and Petit Goave are also on high alert.
• The Red Cross SMS, and the toll free information line, are the result of an innovative partnership between the Red Cross and Trilogy International, a global telecommunications provider and owner of Voila, one of Haiti’s primary mobile service providers
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.