By Kathy Mueller, Canadian Red Cross
 
Combatting acute watery diarrhea/cholera requires knowledge, skill, equipment, medicine, and most importantly: good, clean water.
 
Water to mix with oral rehydration salts to restore fluid and electrolyte balance in those who are sick. Water to mix with chlorine to keep the environment at a cholera treatment centre clean. Water to help promote proper hygiene at home.
 
But how can that be accomplished when an increase in cases of acute watery diarrhea/cholera is seen in a developing country experiencing a severe drought?
 
John Best, lead technician on the Canadian Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU)“We always explore every option available to us,” says John Best, lead technician on the Canadian Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU). “Working amid drought conditions can certainly add to the complexities of finding a secure and clean water source.”
 
The Canadian Red Cross, with support from the Government of Canada, has set up a treatment centre in the drought affected region in eastern Africa to help combat an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea/cholera.
 
On average, the centre, which operates round-the-clock, is using 4,500 litres of water every day.
 
“We’re having water trucked in roughly every week or so,” says Best. “We have access to municipal water from the adjacent nursing school. That’s enough to fill our tank as well as our two water bladders which supply the site and allow the medical teams to do their work.”
 
The Canadian Red Cross, with support from the Government of Canada, has set up a treatment centre in the drought affected region in eastern AfricaThe trucked-in water is first treated before use at the treatment centre, while the local municipal supply has so far not required it.  The Red Cross continues to test both water sources to ensure quality control.
 
Working alongside local doctors and nurses, Red Cross staff and volunteers use this water supply to ensure patients drink adequate amounts of a rehydration solution. If considered necessary by medical staff, rehydration is also provided by way of an IV.
 
A good portion of the water supply goes towards cleaning as buckets, floors, beds, all need to be disinfected after use.
 
“To ensure the bacteria is killed off, we create various chlorine solutions,” explains Best. “A stronger solution is used for cleaning supplies, while we use a weaker solution for spraying people’s shoes and hands before they leave the centre. This helps to prevent bacteria from being transported back to their villages.”
 
The team has been working continuously since the treatment centre opened to help patients get better. 

“Our goal is to get people healthy and home as soon as possible,” says Best.

Read more about our efforts during the ongoing drought and famine.