Global Handwashing Day: Hand-washing essential to prevent spread of cholera in Haiti

Published: 15 October 2016

Port-au-Prince/Geneva, 15 October 2016 —This year`s Global Handwashing Day, Haiti Red Cross Society staff and volunteers will be in communities promoting hand-washing as one of a number of critical hygiene practices to help stem a worsening outbreak of cholera and prevent other diseases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

From before Hurricane Matthew hit through the days of devastation that have followed, Haiti Red Cross Society volunteers and staff have been in communities distributing emergency supplies including soap and hygiene kids to help stop the spread of cholera and other diseases.

“Washing hands thoroughly with soap and clean water is one of the most important tools we have to stop the spread of cholera and other diseases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew,” said Dr Julie Lyn Hall, Director of Health for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“When our volunteers distribute soap and clean water in communities, we explain the importance of washing hands for stopping the spread of disease - especially before cooking and eating, after using or cleaning a latrine, after caring for sick family members, and before and after caring for their babies,” said Dr Hall, on Global Handwashing Day.

The Haiti Red Cross Society is scaling up water, sanitation and hygiene promotion in hurricane-affected areas, where water and sanitation systems were damaged by the storm and flooding, contributing to contaminated water and spikes in cholera cases. 

Red Cross relief items have been amongst the first to arrive in Haiti.  In the first week following the disaster, more than 100 tonnes of relief despatched have arrived in Haiti items including hygiene kits, buckets for washing and hygiene, tarpaulins, kitchen sets and shelter kit.

Another cargo plane of critical items is scheduled to arrive today. The stocks are being transferred to a frigate and shipped to the devastated city of Jérémie, where they will be off loaded and delivered by Red Cross teams to severely affected towns and villages in south western Haiti.

There are reports of increases in cholera cases since Hurricane Matthew hit. Cholera is a highly infectious disease, spread through consumption of contaminated water. It causes severe diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration that can be deadly if untreated.  

IFRC is promoting hand hygiene globally as a cheap and effective way to fight disease spread as part of Global Handwashing Day 2016.

For media inquiries or to arrange for interviews, please contact:

In Panama:

  • Diana Medina, Communications Manager (English and Spanish)
    Skype: medinadiana30 - Mobile phone /whatsApp: +507 6780-5395

In Haiti:

  • Ines Brill, IFRC Country Representative (English, Spanish and French)
    Mobile phone: +509 3170-7809 - Satellite phone: +88 1651460203
  • Stephane De Rengerves (English, Spanish and French)

Mobile: +509 4895-6132 - Satellite phone: +88 1651460200

  • Marjorie Jasmin, Communications Officer (English and French):
    Mobile: +509 3170-6963

In Geneva