26 October 2010
The Red Cross is continuing its response to the Haiti cholera outbreak, and has begun the development of new cholera treatment centres.
Ministry of Health figures indicate that 3,342 cases have been reported so far, with 259 deaths. Most of the cases were recorded in the Artibonite region in the centre of the country. Five cases were confirmed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, but these all involved people from the affected region seeking medical treatment.
Although the number of new cases has decreased in the past 24 hours, the outbreak may be far from contained. "If an epidemic hits the city with its severely limited sanitation, we could quickly have a crisis on our hands," said Chris Brewer, British Red Cross sanitation manager in Port-au-Prince.
The British Red Cross has set up an observation centre in La Piste camp, home to 50,000 people, containing three beds and an oral rehydration point for serious cases of diarrhoea. Preparation has been undertaken for the rapid setup of larger treatment facilities in case of a further outbreak.
Hundreds of Red Cross hygiene promotion volunteers are also being trained in cholera preparedness and prevention, going door-to-door across camps to make sure people know how to keep themselves and their families safe. The Dominican Red Cross has also has also begun hygiene promotion activities along the border.
"Additional hygiene training is important," said Borry Jatta, British Red Cross hygiene promotion manager. "Although our volunteers are fully trained in hygiene promotion, cholera is different because of the speed that it can kill."
Marie Joseph Diaque has been a British Red Cross hygiene promoter in La Piste camp since April. "Over the past few months we have been teaching people about good hygiene practices like washing their hands and using safe drinking water," she said. "The levels of awareness in the camp are now much higher."
Local radio networks, newspapers, SMS technology and other media are all being used to make sure health information reaches as many people as possible.
The Red Cross has been on the ground since the beginning of the outbreak, with the Haitian Red Cross supporting local authorities in Artibonite. Teams have distributed fresh water in high-risk areas and provided extra medical supplies to overstretched health facilities.
Red Cross trucks are leaving Port-au-Prince on a daily basis, carrying clean water, medical supplies, hospital tents, and other essential supplies including chlorine to clean water containers.
"In the next 24 to 48 hours we will have a much better understanding if this spells a crisis for Port-au-Prince," said Chris Brewer. "In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to stop this threat form turning into another tragedy."