Quick response to cholera saved lives in Haiti, but challenges remain – UN

In Haiti, a girl receives fluids intravenously to treat the dangerous levels of dehydration that accompany cholera

11 November 2010 – Timely response by the Government of Haiti and humanitarian agencies to the cholera outbreak in the country saved lives, with more than 11,000 patients having been treated in hospitals since cases were first reported last month, the United Nations said today.

“The initial swift and effective response launched by the national authorities, combined with the stocks and expertise that humanitarian organizations already had in-country, has without doubt saved lives,” said Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti.

Government efforts have been focused on providing clean water, particularly in the central region and the greater Port-au-Prince area, and on purifying water supplies in all departments.

The humanitarian community has deployed water and sanitation experts to support Government teams verifying water quality around the country. Nearly half a million water tablets, soap and oral rehydration salts are being distributed, targeting areas where cholera has already been detected. Cholera treatment centres – an essential first line of response – are now open in 15 urban centres across the country, including seven in Port-au-Prince.

“A major effort has already been made, but the sheer quantity of relief items that need to be delivered in the days and weeks ahead is going to require more logistical and financial support for the Government by all humanitarian agencies and donors and very close coordination. Without this, the epidemic could outrun our efforts,” Mr. Fisher emphasized.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has, meanwhile, distributed nearly 7,000 hygiene kits since the beginning of this month, targeting pregnant women and people living with HIV/AIDS.

More than 3,500 pregnant women and 720 people living with HIV/AIDS based in Miragoâne, Les Cayes, St. Marc and Gonaïves have received the kits, which contain basic personal hygiene items and chlorine to prevent cholera, in addition to flashlights and blankets.

“We are currently focusing on the Department of Artibonite in central Haiti, particularly the city of Gonaïves, where flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas is feeding fears that the cholera epidemic may spread,” said Igor Bosc, UNFPA Representative in Haiti. “We have strengthened our presence in Haiti’s fourth largest city, alongside the Directorate for Civilian Protection, in order to better coordinate the humanitarian response.”

Mr. Bosc said that UNFPA will also strengthen the Jérémie maternity facility in Grand’Anse in south-western Haiti to protect pregnant women from cholera. The agency was already delivering hygiene materials and reproductive health kits to the clinic.

The kits include a wide range of items, such as supplies for home and institution childbirth, oral and injectable contraceptives, male condoms, emergency contraception, supplies for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, supplies needed in case of miscarriage and other complications, as well as supplies for vaginal examinations, Caesarean section delivery and blood transfusions.


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