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PDA responding to cholera outbreak in Haiti

October 26, 2010

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is responding to help prevent the spread of the cholera outbreak that has been identified in the Artibonite and Central provinces of Haiti. According to the Haiti Ministry of Health, more than 3,000 people were hospitalized, and more than 250 people have died as a result of the outbreak.

Preventive measures are being taken in project areas where PDA-supported work in collaboration with our ecumenical partner, ACT Alliance, is underway to prevent the infection from spreading in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other metropolitan areas. A total of five cases were diagnosed in Port-au-Prince, and all had traveled from the Artibonite area.

Among the actions:

Shortly before the January 2010 earthquake, Haiti established the National Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation (DINEPA), a state regulatory authority that had begun the reform for water supply and sanitation in Haiti. Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), a PDA partner within the ACT Alliance, is working with partners in the camps and other areas where relief and recovery programs are ongoing to ensure that WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) objectives set by the government and the UN are attained.

This has included the increase of the dosage of chlorine from 0.5mg to 1mg for the water, and increase of the cleaning of latrines to 2-3 times a day. Aggressive chlorination is critical for the strategy of DINEPA to fight the disease, alongside with the mobilization of people to protect themselves through safe practices. NCA has also added additional staff to support the response.

Other PDA partners and members of the ACT Alliance are also responding to this most recent disaster. Some of the actions taken include:

  • The posting of material to raise awareness of the threat, and distribution of kits to some of the most vulnerable areas. Kits contain chlorine, aquatabs (water purification tablets), buckets with lids and jerry cans. Information has been made available on board signs about the distribution purpose, package content, and tab use instructions.
  • Hygiene promotion activities and the distribution of aquatabs in schools, where 20,000 students are now attending classes.
  • If needed, the provision and distribution of Church World Service (CWS) Gift-of-the-Heart hygiene kits, which are now at a Port-au-Prince warehouse. The kits "do not have anything to treat water, but they do have soap and towels, along with a toothbrush, comb, nail clippers, comb, and band-aids," said CWS Haiti Response Coordinator Aaron Tate.

The PDA-supported ACT Alliance response efforts are focused on supporting water, sanitation and hygiene promotion. The most effective ways to prevent the disease from spreading are clean drinking water and basic hygiene practices, such as active hand washing and cleanliness of sanitation facilities, say ACT personnel in Haiti. The personnel have identified key issues as effective prevention and mitigation measures across the country; information-sharing and active mobilization with the local people; and effective medical response.

In addition to the active response given in the communities, ACT Alliance members in Haiti have held meetings with partners and their staff to raise awareness of the cholera outbreak and also have stocked re-hydration salts, antibiotics, water and hygiene items.

All efforts are being coordinated and carried out in close cooperation with government of Haiti agencies working in the areas of health and water/sanitation, and with UN agencies.


Information for this report was provided by ACT Alliance.

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