ACF Expands Cholera Response in Haiti amidst Crisis
ARTIBONITE, HAITI— Action Against Hunger | ACF International has stepped up its response to the cholera outbreak in Haiti, which has grown in the wake of flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas. The global humanitarian agency warns that cholera could spiral out of control given its recent spread into Port-au-Prince, its rapid growth in the Artibonite and North-West departments, severe weather conditions that have exacerbated the problem, and insufficient resources to combat the disease.
More assistance is needed as the number of cholera cases grows precipitously, particularly in the Artibonite department, considered the epicenter of the crisis. For example, 480 people arrived at a hospital in the city of Raboteau, Artibonite, on November 8th seeking medical attention, compared to 360 the previous day and 104 the day before. Although the storm's impact was less severe than expected, Hurricane Tomas flooded much of Gonaives, the capital of the department, making it increasingly difficult for aid agencies to reach affected areas.
To control the spread of disease in Gonaives in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, Action Against Hunger boosted its emergency response, flying in additional public health experts and providing 10,000 people at risk of cholera with kits containing treatment tablets, soap, and rehydration packets. These activities supplement ongoing distributions in the Artibonite and the North-West departments, where ACF is reaching some 60,000 people. In Port-au-Prince, where the first cases of cholera were officially reported last week, Action Against Hunger is distributing chlorinated water to cholera treatment centers and disinfecting water points that provide 300,000 people with daily access to clean drinking water.
The humanitarian organization is also implementing a wide-reaching public awareness campaign on the importance of hand-washing and preparing food with chlorinated water as a means to prevent further outbreaks. Every day, the ACF’s messages reach some 20,000 people at markets, distribution points and other public places.
The cholera outbreak has highlighted the huge water, sanitation and hygiene needs in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. According to a study carried out by Action Against Hunger in 2008, 41% of Haitians have access to latrines, and half the population cannot access clean drinking water. In Artibonite, two-thirds of the population has no access to safe drinking water and latrines. In rural areas, sanitation is largely non-existent: one in twenty people has access to a latrine, and waste management systems are extremely limited. Beyond the current emergency response, establishing adequate water, sanitation and hygiene systems in Haiti is critical to avert future disease outbreaks.