Eradicating cholera on the island of Hispaniola

Published: 12 December 2013 18:35 CET

In October 2010, months after the horrific earthquake devastated Haiti on 12 January, 2010, Haiti was struck by another tragedy: cholera.

Cholera had not been on the island of Hispaniola for over 100 years and its return in 2010 produced the largest outbreak of the disease recorded in recent history, in which 8,600 people died. The speed with which the disease spread was said to be due to the lack of adequate sanitation and health services. Haiti has the lowest levels of access to safe water and sanitation of any country in the Americas, and only 29 per cent of the population has good sanitation.

The cholera outbreak, which began in Haiti, inevitably spread to the Dominican Republic. The cholera response of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has supported seven cholera treatment centres or units, treated over 40,000 patients hospitalized in the Red Cross Cholera Treatment Centres or units, and has reached around 5.6 million people through hygiene promotion activities. The governments of Haiti and Dominican Republic and the international community has done a huge amount of work to tackle the outbreak and as a result, the number of cholera cases has decreased. However, cholera continues to pose a threat and the number of cases gets higher with each rainy season.

For this reason the Red Cross is launching  a two-year campaign based on the objectives of the ten-year plan created by the Haitian and Dominican governments aimed at eradicating the disease.

The Red Cross – represented on the island of Hispaniola by the Haitian and Dominican Republic Red Cross societies – is present in all parts of the island. With 30,000 volunteers, the Red Cross is in a unique position to once again make the island cholera-free.

The operation, working in partnership with both governments, will take a broad approach, addressing cholera response needs and prevention activities throughout regions of Haiti and Dominican Republic using the large network of volunteers and the experience of partner National Societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“We have a huge opportunity and a responsibility to eradicate cholera from this island once and for all. We know how to tackle it, and with support our volunteers can make it happen. It is critical that we act now to ensure that cholera not only leaves this island but also stays away for good,” said Alexandre Claudon, Head of IFRC Haiti Delegation.