accessibility & help

Haiti rainy season brings increased cholera fears

6 June 2011

Following a significant rise in cholera cases in Haiti, the Red Cross has opened another cholera treatment centre in the capital Port-au-Prince.

The centre has been opened in Carrefour amid growing fears the cholera situation may worsen with the onset of the rainy and hurricane seasons, leaving treatment facilities stretched to capacity.

The British Red Cross continues to run a cholera treatment unit in La Piste/JMV – a camp which is home to some 50,000 people displaced in the January 2010 earthquake – that has been open since the cholera outbreak began in October 2010. Borry Jatta, British Red Cross health and hygiene delegate, 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.”

Cholera prevention programme

Since October, the British Red Cross has treated more than 12,000 people in Port-au-Prince, including around 5,500 people with serious cases of cholera who have been admitted to its unit. It is also carrying out an extensive cholera prevention and treatment campaign across the South Department of Haiti, with volunteers travelling to remote mountain communities only accessible on foot or by donkey. 
Borry said: “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. Prevention is vital at this time and so far, we’ve reached over 80,000 people with key messages about how to avoid the spread of the disease."

The Haitian Red Cross, with support from its partners, is carrying out prevention activities throughout the country. It is 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.

Hygiene promotion

The Red Cross has also massively scaled up its communications by using SMS messages, approved by the Ministry of Health, to target people in high-risk areas, letting them know where their nearest treatment centre is and providing practical information on prevention, treatment and symptoms.

Naomi Fils-Aimé from Annexe de la Mairie camp in Port-au-Prince received a Red Cross SMS message on her mobile phone. She said: “The information 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.

Alongside its hygiene promotion work, the Red Cross has provided hundreds of thousands of people with clean and safe drinking water, hygiene kits and soap. It has also set up a series of oral rehydration posts and cholera treatment centres throughout Haiti.

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