I’m sure you are all aware from the news channels that there has been an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Cholera is a very deadly disease, causing severe diarrhea that leads quickly to dehydration and death. This is the first time it has been reported in Haiti and is a very serious situation on top of all the other problems here related to the January earthquake. It was first reported on October 20th in the town of St. Marc, which is located north of Port-au-Prince. Since then, cases have been reported in the Artibonite, Central and North departments of the country (Haiti is divided into 10 departments, which are like states. The department Jeremie is in is called the Grand’Anse). Between October 20 and 27th, the Haitian Ministry of Health has reported 4649 confirmed cases of the disease and 305 deaths.
The Haitian government, UN, and other non-profit organizations already working in Haiti after the earthquake have now begun to respond to this new crisis. Cholera treatment centers are being set up in affected areas, and water purification tablets and oral rehydration salts are being distributed, especially in camps where IDP’s (internally displaced persons) are living. In addition, many organizations are mobilizing community health workers and other personnel to do community education and teach about prevention, especially emphasizing water purification and hand washing.
On Friday, October 29th, there were reports of demonstrations against Nepal UN forces who are stationed at a base near the Artibonite River. Many feel that the Nepal soldiers are responsible for bringing the disease, which is endemic in their country, to Haiti, contaminating the Artibonite River, leading to spread of the disease.
Thus far, no cases have been reported in the Grand’Anse department and Jeremie. We have been spending time during each of our clinic sessions, though, discussing the outbreak and teaching our patients basic prevention techniques. We receive reports from the UN every 1-2 days and are keeping up with the progress being made in containing the outbreak. Everyone here is hoping that the disease can be prevented from reaching Port-au-Prince, in which case, it would likely spread to the entire rest of the country.
We will keep you updated from time to time on this blog. Please continue to pray for this country and its people.