22 October 2010
The Red Cross is responding to an outbreak of severe diarrhoea, feared to be cholera, in the Artibonite region of Haiti, two hours north of Port-au-Prince. Ministry of Health figures indicate 1,093 cases have been reported so far, leading to 135 deaths.
A Red Cross truck, loaded with medical supplies including intravenous fluids, antibiotics and first aid kits, has arrived at the main hospital in Saint Marc where relief items are being used to treat patients. More Red Cross trucks left Port-au-Prince today, carrying 31,000 litres of clean water and chlorine, as well as large tents and sleeping mats to increase the hospital’s capacity.
In addition to getting vital relief to the local hospitals, Red Cross teams have been giving people basic sanitation information, including sending mass SMS messages advising people on hygiene and safe water practices.
Improving hygiene and sanitation
David Peppiatt, director of the British Red Cross’ international division, said: “It is early days and information is scarce but Red Cross teams have been responding since the outbreak of severe diarrhoea was first identified. For the last nine months we have been working to prevent a second health emergency such as cholera, by working with communities to improve hygiene and sanitation levels.
“Clearly the current situation is worrying but the Red Cross is already providing urgent medical supplies to the hospitals and clean water. Our teams on the ground are monitoring the situation closely.”
The Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies have been providing a large proportion of the water and sanitation services on behalf of the Haitian authorities since the earthquake struck in January. This is in a bid to avoid the risk of a secondary health disaster.
Clean water and latrines
Even before the earthquake, Haitian’s access to sanitation was amongst the lowest in the world. Access to improved sanitation had actually decreased in the period between 1990 and 2006.
Each day, the Red Cross trucks 2.4 million litres of water to up to 314,000 people living in camps across Port-au-Prince. This amounts to about 40 per cent of all water distributed in the capital. Since the start of the operation, 289,800 cubic metres of water have been distributed. So far, more than 2,600 latrines have been built serving nearly 238,000 people.
Led by the Haitian Red Cross, the response to the outbreak will support existing health and water services in the region.
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