Following Hurricane Matthew, cholera is on the rise
in Haiti. The Government of Haiti, along with partner organizations including the Red Cross, is responding with a vaccination and education campaign to prevent the spread of cholera.
Cholera is caused by a bacterial infection in the intestine. The infection spreads through contaminated food and water and leads to serious diarrhea and vomiting. Cholera is treatable, however if left untreated a person with cholera can become dangerously dehydrated. Following a disaster like Hurricane Matthew, the risk of cholera increases because of factors including flooded sewage facilities, lack of available hygiene facilities, difficult or limited access to clean drinking water, and crowded living conditions.
The Canadian Red Cross, with support from the Government of Canada, is training volunteers on hygiene and cholera prevention methods in the town of Jérémie and surrounding areas within Grande Anse Department.
Shelley-Rose Hyppolite, a member of the Canadian Red Cross medical team in Haiti, explained , “We train groups of volunteers on what cholera is, we explain that it is serious illness and what the symptoms are, we talk about what families can do to prevent it, and what we can do to easily treat it.”
Many of the 350 volunteers are already familiar with cholera - Haiti has experienced cholera before, including a large outbreak after the 2010 earthquake
. “They have a solid understanding of the disease, so we build on what they know,” Shelley-Rose said, “We reinforce the importance of sharing tips on good hygiene, and simple says in which we can prevent diseases from spreading unnecessarily.”
Volunteers are currently visiting impacted areas to share information about how to prevent the spread of cholera and to mobilize the community for vaccination in collaboration with other actors in the area.
Because many of the volunteers are working in the villages they come from, they are known and trusted. This trust plays an important part in sharing information with their communities. Haiti Red Cross volunteer Marie-Harlande Desmoulins said, “Our messages to our neighbours is that cholera is a serious illness, but simple hygiene steps and getting vaccinated can save lives. I grew up in this community and I am very proud to help.”