19 June 2012, Port-au-Prince - “There is a significant probability of a major cholera emergency in Haiti in the coming months but resources have been severely diminished”, urges the advocacy report launched today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent in Haiti.
An increase in cholera cases has been reported in the Artibonite, Nord-Ouest, Nord-Est, and Ouest Departments, in the island of Gonave, as well as in displaced camps in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area and surrounding communities. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that new cases diagnosed by the end of 2012 could reach 170,000.
The International Federation is worried that the recent decline in humanitarian funding has reduced the capacity of health partners to face a resurgence of cholera in Haiti. At the peak of the epidemic in June 2011, 2,500 beds were available in the country. Today, most of the existing 814 beds are already occupied. A major challenge is the weakness in Government capacity to carry out the whole response. The integration of cholera treatment within existing health infrastructures and the National Surveillance and Alert System remain limited.
The International Federation report warns that “While the Haitian authorities must receive the funding and support needed to build their capacities to provide the improved health, water and sanitation services that the Haitian population needs and deserves, cholera health personnel must be paid for the work they accomplish in contributing to saving lives. In the meantime, the very real threat of a cholera epidemic is looming and could cost countless lives if the response capacity is not stepped up.”
“There is an urgent need to call on relevant government departments to carry out a thorough assessment of the number of medical facilities available and that are able to treat patients so that gaps in provisions can be clearly identified”, says Dr. Balla Conde, International Federation Emergency Health Delegate. “Hygiene promotion activities in camps must be scaled up and water committees must also receive greater support. In addition, it is essential that chlorination of water in camps be carefully monitored to ensure that basic standards are met”, adds Conde.
In the meantime, the Haitian Red Cross with the support of the International Federation is working on a Cholera Contingency Plan aligned to the National Cholera Contingency Plan in coordination with other partners. Emergency stockpiles of medicines and equipment are in country and on standby. The International Federation has a central warehouse storing medical supplies, soap, water purification tablets and ORS. Medical facilities deployed during the peak of the epidemic have remained in country and are ready to be released should cases continue to increase. “Current funds allow us to operationalize a hygiene promotion team of 34 persons in 21 displaced camps. Further funding will be required to reach other communities, including areas covered by the International Federation and their surroundings, as well as locations with specific geographic vulnerabilities such as Isle La Gonave and Isle La Vache,” highlights Dr. Conde.
The number of trained Red Cross community health workers will also be increased to help respond to potential cases, while hygiene promotion activities for vulnerable groups, particularly in camps, will be scaled up. Information campaigns for the general population, combining SMS, sound trucks and radio will also be implemented to support the work of community volunteers and provide people with simple measures to stay healthy.
In December 2010 the International Federation appealed to donors for almost 13.5 million Swiss Francs to support the cholera response in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of thousands of people were 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 10.5 million SMS to people Haiti-wide with advice on how to avoid cholera.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 mil¬lion people each year through its 186 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:
France Hurtubise, communications coordinator, Haiti, IFRC
Mobile : +509 3491 9813 – E-mail : France.email@example.com