April 4, 2011
As medical and public health experts had projected, cases of cholera in Haiti, which had been declining during the recent dry season, are noticeably mounting again after some significant rainfalls in late March.
Haiti's Ministry of Health (MSPP), the UN Health Cluster, World Health Organization/Pan-American Health Association and departmental health authorities released an official alert last week concerning the resumption of cholera cases during the rainy season. The situation is expected to worsen during the upcoming cyclone season, which begins in June.
From Plan's areas of intervention in the South-east, North-east and the West departments of Haiti, a rising number of new cases were also reported last week from the Oral Rehydration Points and the Cholera Treatment Units that Plan installed after the outbreak began in October 2010. These health points are the first lines of defense for people living in camps or in hard-to-reach areas before more advanced treatment becomes necessary.
Over the past several weeks, while many non-governmental organizations reduced their cholera response activities due to the decline in cases, Plan Haiti's activities remained ongoing. The Ministry of Health has now requested Plan Haiti's support in managing the situation in the coastal town of Jacmel and the surrounding areas of the South-east department, where the mortality rate for cholera cases is particularly high (8 percent).
Plan Haiti is quickly mobilizing to:
Intensify community trainings and meetings with Plan health facilitators to help spread the Ministry of Health (MSPP) approved messages about cholera—in terms of prevention and treatment options.
Return to the Child Friendly Spaces, the preschools, primary schools and community events to continue sensitization campaigns.
Intensify the visits of Plan-trained health brigade workers to individual homes in the communities especially in rural/remote areas.
Add cholera awareness to the disaster risk reduction programming already in progress for cyclones.
Work with local authorities to quickly know what the directives and decisions have been made about cholera; and advocate to have them integrate cholera into their long-term community health interventions.
Encourage the departmental education authorities to send cholera awareness materials to all of the schools.
Continue to incorporate cholera awareness messaging in ongoing hygiene promotion activities.
Install water tanks with a capacity of 1,000 gallons at schools.
Engage youth groups to carry on sensitization campaigns at public places including markets and parking areas.
Conduct sanitary clean-up campaigns in camps through the Cash For Work program.
Launch Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which encourages key behavior changes, as a long-term strategy for cholera prevention.
Another valuable component of Plan's cholera prevention programming is drilling of well-placed boreholes within the communities to provide for fresh, clean water to the largest number of people possible. Otherwise community members are often obliged to obtain water from unsafe sources and may not be as likely to enact the knowledge of good hygiene principles. The cost of one borehole is approximately $15,000 and installation takes about two weeks.
According to John Chaloner, Plan Haiti's Country Director: "Time is of the essence with cholera and for the majority of the people in Haiti—who live without proper sanitation facilities or access to clean water—support to Plan Haiti for our cholera response activities is now as important as ever."