Rainy season in Haiti brings increased risk of cholera

Published: 2 June 2011
Photo for IFRC by Ben Depp Photo for IFRC by Ben Depp

Red Cross re-open cholera treatment centre in Port au Prince following rise in cases.

A significant rise in cholera cases has been reported in Haiti, leading the Red Cross to re-open a cholera treatment centre in Port au Prince. The increase, which had until recently been contained within specific rural areas, has now hit the capital leaving treatment facilities stretched to capacity.

"The Red Cross has been scaling up our cholera prevention work for many months in preparation for the rains, which we know brings increased risk," said Gerhard Tauscher, cholera operation coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

"But with more and more patients needing urgent treatment we are now re-opening a cholera treatment centre in Port au Prince. The centre was originally established last year at the height of the epidemic and we have further stocks of medical equipment in country, ready to be released should cases continue to rise."

The cholera treatment centre, based in Carrefour Feuilles, will be run by the Haitian Red Cross and supported by IFRC and Canadian Red Cross in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

Throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Red Cross teams are carrying out prevention activities including disseminating health information to people in camps, schools, clinics and communities, distributing soap and hygiene items and providing training for health staff and volunteers.
"Making sure people know of the increased risk, and the simple steps to take to avoid the spread of the disease is vital. We have massively scaled up our communications in country and are sending SMS messages to people in affected areas with basic, but life saving, information" Tauscher said.

SMS messages, approved by the Ministry of Health, are being targeted at people in high risk areas to let them know where their nearest treatment centre is and to provide practical information on prevention, treatment and symptoms. The weekly ‘Radyo Kwa Wouj’ radio show, which broadcasts in Creole nation-wide, has also turned its focus back to cholera, with listeners able to call in and have their questions answered live on air.

Cases of cholera in urban areas of Haiti had appeared to stabilise at the beginning of the year, although an increase in cases had been recorded in some rural, isolated regions. In some mountainous areas, challenges posed by limited infrastructure and transport means Red Cross volunteers use donkeys to help transport vital supplies of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), water purification tabs and IV serum to remote communities.

In December 2010 the Red Cross appealed to donors for almost 13.5million Swiss Francs to support the cholera response in Haiti and Dominican Republic. To date, hundreds of thousands of people have been reached with hygiene promotion activities, clean and safe drinking water, hygiene kits and soap. In addition a series of oral rehydration posts and cholera treatment centres were set up throughout Haiti. At the peak of the outbreak the Red Cross sent out 10.5million SMS to people Haiti-wide with advice on avoiding cholera.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Haiti:
Becky Webb, communications coordinator   Tel: +509 3491 9813

In Geneva:
Paul Conneally, Manager, media & public communication Tel: +41 79 308 9809

The Federation, the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. For further information on Federation activities, please see our web site: www.ifrc.org 


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 191 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright