By Kate Roux
“This project is not about giving products or items. We give knowledge. However, it is not always easy. People usually expect the Red Cross to give something,” explains Yuko Ogasawara, a nurse from the Japanese Red Cross.
In 2010, a cholera epidemic began in Haiti. The country is now registered as the highest cholera caseload in the world. With low access to safe drinking water, insufficient sanitation, poor health and hygiene practices and a lack of adequate health services, all these factors put together lead to an aggressive spread of the disease. And it is only exacerbated by disasters such as Hurricane Matthew.
Yuko came from Wakayama, Japan, over a year ago. She has been working in the commune of Savanette, training 7 nurses, who in turn trained a total of 632 Red Cross volunteers in 76 communities on cholera and hygiene promotion.
“We explain how to take care of someone who is dehydrated. We teach them about the symptoms of cholera,” she continues. “Some of the community members have built their own toilets because of the training we provided. They recognized that open-defecation is the cause of cholera,” Yuko continues.
There is a large river that runs through Savanette, and many defecate in the open. Yet the communities reside in very remote, mountainous areas, making it difficult for people to access clinics or hospitals when they fall ill. The Haiti Red Cross with support from partners such as the Japanese Red Cross serve as a critical bridge between communities and the healthcare system.
“We have not had any cases of cholera since Hurricane Matthew,” explains Auguste Veronique, a Red Cross volunteer. “We reduced cholera cases by 75 per cent since this project started,” she continues. “It has made a real difference in our community.”