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Haiti: Rainy season brings increased Cholera fears

Friday 03 June
For further information

Henry Makiwa, hmakiwa@redcross.org.uk, 0207 877 7479 or out of hours 07659 145095

The Red Cross has opened a cholera treatment centre in Port au Prince following a significant rise in cholera cases in Haiti. There are growing fears the situation may worsen with the onset of the rainy and hurricane seasons, leaving treatment facilities stretched to capacity.

Borry Jatta, a British Red Cross health and hygiene delegate working at a British Red Cross cholera treatment unit in La Piste/JMV camp that has remained open since the first cholera outbreak, said: “We have seen a sudden increase in cholera cases as the rainy season intensifies. Last week we had a steady intake of approximately 40 patients, and this week it has shot up to over 60.”

Cases of cholera in urban areas of Haiti appeared to stabilise at the beginning of the year, although an increase in cases had been recorded in some rural, isolated regions. To tackle this, the British Red Cross began an extensive cholera prevention and treatment campaign across the South Department of Haiti, sending volunteers to reach remote mountain communities only accessible on foot or by donkey. 
 
Borry continued: “The situation is very serious again, and I am sure it is going to get worse. Any spare beds that we have at our treatment unit are being used for cholera cases from other treatment centres that are overflowing from this recent outbreak."

British Red Cross teams recently treated 40 cholera cases at a boarding school of 150 teenagers who had all been admitted in the space of two days. To deal with this cholera hotspot, hygiene teams visited the school and found the probable source of the outbreak in the main water tank that was cleaned and disinfected.

Throughout Haiti, Red Cross teams are carrying out prevention activities including disseminating health information to people in camps, schools, clinics and communities, distributing soap, water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts and providing training for health staff and volunteers. Over 80,000 people have been reached through hygiene promotion by British Red Cross staff and volunteers in Port au Prince.

“Making sure people know of the increased risk, and the simple steps to take to avoid the spread of the disease, is vital. We have massively scaled up our communications in country and are sending SMS messages to people in affected areas with basic, but life saving, information,“ said Gerhard Tauscher, cholera operation coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
SMS messages, approved by the Ministry of Health, are being targeted to people in high risk areas to let people know where their nearest treatment centre is and to provide practical information on prevention, treatment and symptoms.

Naomi Fils-Aimé, a beneficiary of the Red Cross cholera outreach programme at Annexe de la Mairie camp in Port au Prince received SMS messages on her mobile phone providing information on cholera prevention.
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She said: “The message about cholera was very good. It explained how to prevent cholera by washing hands. It was very useful for me because I didn’t know what precautions to take to avoid getting cholera.”
The weekly ‘Radyo Kwa Wouj’ radio show, which broadcasts in Creole nation-wide, has also turned its focus back to cholera, with listeners able to call in and have their questions answered live on air.
As well as reaching hundreds of thousands of people with hygiene promotion, the Red Cross has also provided similar numbers with clean and safe drinking water, hygiene kits and soap. In addition a series of oral rehydration posts and cholera treatment centres have been set up throughout Haiti. At the peak of the outbreak last year, the Red Cross sent out 10.5million SMS to people Haiti-wide with advice on avoiding cholera.

ENDS

For more information on the British Red Cross please visit: http://www.redcross.org.uk

Notes to editors

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.

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