A cholera outbreak in central Haiti has left 250 people dead and more than 3,000 ill. Haitian president Rene Preval confirmed the outbreak on Friday, October 22, after first reports of the illness and deaths were made in St. Marc in the southern Artibonite department, the center of the Cholera spate about 60-miles northwest of Port-au-Prince.
Health officials now fear the spread of the disease to the camps of Port-au-Prince, where more than one million displaced people still live. Poor sanitation and hygiene in the settlements make people there particularly vulnerable to the disease, which causes diarrhea and vomiting so severe that it can kill a person within hours. The Associated Press stated that five cholera patients have been reported in Haiti’s capital, but government officials said Sunday that all five apparently contracted cholera outside Port-au-Prince.
Catholic Relief Services mobilized a massive response just 1 day after the cholera outbreak was confirmed. CRS and partner staff went tent to tent in 12 camps in Port-au-Prince, distributing three bars of soap each to more than 10,000 families (more than 50,000 people) and reaching as many people through an information campaign (simple flyers in Creole) that promotes hand washing and personal hygiene.
CRS’ health team, with colleagues from the University of Maryland, has also been working to help 7 CRS supported hospitals around the country prepare to respond to a possible influx of cholera patients.
“Our first concern is the camps, since that’s one of the places people are most vulnerable,” said Luke King, CRS Haiti country representative. “Our team did an amazing job this weekend of launching a massive education campaign in the camps that involved 80 partners and staff going door to door, tent by tent, providing soap and educating people how cholera is transmitted and how it can be prevented.”
CRS plans to expand its cholera prevention efforts to communities outside of Port-au-Prince, and has created a support cluster for CRS staff members and their families who may be vulnerable to the disease.
On October 22, CRS also carried out an assessment in the Artibonite department, where the outbreak originated and where the main needs are medicines, clean drinking water, cleaning materials, hand sanitizer, diapers, sterile gloves and tents to house the patients.
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