10 November 2010
The British Red Cross has provided care for 30 people in Port-au-Prince suffering cholera-like symptoms.
Coming just days after Hurricane Tomas swept past Haiti, the development further raises the spectre of the disease, which could prove fearsome in the densely populated capital.
“So far we have treated 30 people at our observation centre with rehydration salts and intravenous drips, and referred seven to more advanced medical facilities,” said Borry Jatta, British Red Cross sanitation expert in Port-au-Prince.
Preparing for cholera
“We are waiting on test results to confirm if these cases are cholera or not, but for safety’s sake we have to assume they are,” Borry said. “Since the earthquake we have been preparing for something like this, and have been scaling up our response in Port-au-Prince to try to limit the spread of disease and ensure those who do fall ill get the treatment they need.”
So far one case of cholera has been confirmed in Port-au-Prince and health workers are reporting a further 115 suspected cases in the Haitian capital.
Following a request from the Haitian government last week, the Red Cross has set up one cholera treatment centre, as well as an observation centre in La Piste camp in Port-au-Prince, home to 50,000 people.
Red Cross support
Hundreds of Red Cross hygiene promotion volunteers have been trained in cholera preparedness and prevention, and are going door-to-door across camps to make sure people know how to keep themselves and their families safe.
Hygiene messages have also reached hundreds-of-thousands of people through the SMS and local broadcast and print media. The Red Cross has increased the chlorination of toilets and other possible points of transmission in the camps where it is working. It is also boosting supplies of intravenous drips, rehydration salts and antibiotics, and continues to deliver 2.5 million litres of clean water every day.
“Once people have the disease, treatment is vital, but prevention is the real key. Providing clean water and sanitation, and letting people know how they can protect themselves can cut the chain of transmission,” added Borry.
“In the camps we can provide those elements, but there are hundreds of thousands more living in Port-au-Prince who don’t have access to clean water and decent toilets.
“We are doing all we can, but despite that, cholera in Port-au-Prince still has the potential to be a massive humanitarian disaster.”
Read a first-hand account of the developing cholera situation and the Hurricane Tomas aftermath from Mandy George, one of our delegates in Haiti.