Haiti Red Cross volunteers prepare for cholera vaccination campaign

Published: 5 November 2016 22:29 CET

November 5, 2016—Ahead of a large-scale cholera vaccination campaign to begin in Haiti next week, some 350 Red Cross volunteers are getting trained and ready to participate.  

In teams of two, they’ll visit 16 areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew to spread the word about the campaign, encourage vaccinations and share information about cholera and how to prevent it from spreading.

With cholera on the rise since the hurricane hit southwestern Haiti one month ago, the Government of Haiti and partners have organized a cholera vaccination campaign to take place from 8-14 November in storm-affected areas, as part of broader efforts to curb the spread of the disease in country.

In order to equip volunteers for the campaign before it commences, trainings are being conducted by the Canadian Red Cross in the town of Jérémie on hygiene and cholera prevention methods. 

“We train groups of volunteers on what cholera is, we explain that it is a serious illness and what the symptoms are, we talk about what families can do to prevent it, and what we can do to easily treat it,” says Shelley-Rose Hyppolite, a member of a Canadian Red Cross medical team.  

“Many of the volunteers have already been involved in cholera prevention efforts.  They have a solid understanding of the disease, so we build on what they know,” she continues. “We reinforce the importance of sharing tips on good hygiene, and simple ways in which we can prevent diseases from spreading unnecessarily.”

The 350 Red Cross volunteers supporting the campaign are among 800 who have been actively assisting devastated communities since the hurricane struck. They’ve been distributing hygiene kits that consist of items such as toothbrushes, toilet paper, soap, buckets as well as other relief items, including tarpaulins for makeshift shelter and roofs, food and kitchen supplies.

Because the volunteers largely come from the villages where they work, they are known and trusted by community members, which will be critical as they share information about the vaccination campaign and mobilize participation.

“Our messages to our neighbors is that cholera is a grave malady, but simple hygiene steps and getting vaccinated can save lives,” explains Marie-Harlande Desmoulins, a Haiti Red Cross volunteer. “I grew up in this community and I am very proud to help.”