When the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, our First Responders arrived within just 22 hours to deliver emergency medical care. Five years have now passed since large parts of the capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns and cities were reduced to rubble and over 230,000 Haitians lost their lives. With the help of International Medical Corps, other international relief agencies and the efforts of the Haitian people, many thousands of lives were saved and livelihoods restored. However an unprecedented cholera outbreak and the ongoing threat of hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, continue to threaten already vulnerable communities. Our teams are still on the ground in Haiti today, providing vital health care and training services.
Five-year-old Monley was pulled from the rubble of the Haiti earthquake after being trapped for an astonishing 8 days. As most of the world was losing those final glimmers of hope that survivors of the earthquake in Haiti could still be rescued, Monley’s uncle, Garry, uncovered him from under the collapsed home that had killed Monley’s parents. As Garry rushed into the street with the limp, dirt-covered boy in his arms, International Medical Corps’ Dr. Neil Joyce, was driving by. They put Monley in the car, gave him electrolytes, and rushed him to our doctors and nurses at Hopital de l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti in downtown Port-au-Prince.
In the days and months that followed, Monley received intravenous fluids and further care from our team to get him back to health – he made an immediate connection with our volunteer nurse Gaby McAdoo. As he regained his strength and slowly returned to normal, we knew we had witnessed a near miracle.
Today, Monley is in very good health and is still being cared for by his Uncle Garry. Nurse Gaby had the pleasure of spending time with Monley in Miami where he was visiting his grandmother over the summer. Although Monley has a lot on his little shoulders, coping with the ordeal of losing his parents and home, he is safe, back in school and growing up with his siblings and cousins in his Uncle Garry’s home in Haiti.
Garry says, "Monley is doing well and he always has good grades at school. He likes to play with his friends. Monley always has nightmares and talking during his sleep. He likes to look at his mom's and dad's photos.”
At the peak of International Medical Corps’ emergency response after the earthquake, our volunteer doctors and nurses saw as many as 1,000 patients a day while simultaneously training Haitian counterparts. Within two weeks, we established 13 primary health clinics in displacement camps and earthquake-affected areas throughout Haiti providing some 350,000 medical consultations. We also mobilized more than 400 medical volunteers across the United States, including emergency room, intensive care, and pediatric doctors and nurses as well as mental health experts and infectious disease specialists. Over the last five years, we trained Haitians in order to build capacity for the long-term and operated vital programs in nutrition, mental health care, water, sanitation and hygiene. In keeping with our mission to promote self-reliance through training, International Medical Corps also launched a Continuing Medical Education program in Haiti. It is with the help of Global Giving and other donors that we are able to assist the vast number of people such as Monley who have been affected by this disaster and will be able to continue doing so in the future.
International Medical Corps will mark its fifth anniversary in Haiti in January of 2015. For much of that time, our efforts were oriented toward the provision of Health care for those suffering from the January 2010 earthquake and then, soon after in October of 2010, for those who became victims of the Cholera epidemic.
Most recently, International Medical Corps has focused on providing services to families in the North and Northeast regions due to the vulnerability of the communities there and the relatively few available health care services. In the last six months, International Medical Corps has treated 213 victims of Cholera, decontaminated 293 latrines, decontaminated 184 homes, and provided awareness messages and water purification tablets to over 351,988 vulnerable citizens. International Medical Corps has carried out these activities through its mobile clinic teams, which are active 24/7 as Cholera outbreaks demand throughout the North and Northeast regions. Our efforts and those of our partners have contributed to an overall reduction in fatalities due to Cholera of 70% over the last year.
To further augment our health care services and provide urgently-needed care to communities in Haiti, International Medical Corps partnered with the California-based nonprofit 'Cure Cervical Cancer' in September and were able to screen 158 women for cervical cancer and treat 27 positive cases with cryotherapy, in addition to training more than a dozen doctors and nurses on the intervention. With funds from Global Giving supporters and other donors, International Medical Corps aims to repeat this training and screening in Haiti health clinics at least four times per year.
International Medical Corps was on the ground in Haiti 22 hours after the devastating January 2010 7.0 earthquake that took over 200,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Tragically, the earthquake was not the only disaster to strike Haiti that year. In late October 2010, cholera broke out in Artibonite, a rural region north of Port-au-Prince. International Medical Corps was one of the very first organizations to respond, and had medical staff on the ground in Artibonite days before the outbreak was even confirmed to be cholera. International Medical Corps’ teams aggressively rolled out a network of cholera treatment centers (CTCs) and mobile medical units in Haiti’s most remote and affected areas, in order to provide care for more than 39,700 cholera patients.
Because cholera was a new disease in Haiti, most of the country’s health workers had no experience identifying or treating the disease before the outbreak. International Medical Corps collaborated with the Ministry of Health, engaging, training and employing ministry staff, as well as, local doctors, nurses, and community health workers, in cholera response and treatment techniques. Overall, International Medical Corps trained and mentored more than 1,200 doctors, nurses, and community health workers. As a result, the network of CTCs were staffed largely by local health professionals and were handed over to the national health system – creating sustainability, building self-reliance and helping to ensure that cholera prevention and treatment would be part of the country’s long-term healthcare infrastructure.
At the height of the outbreak in the South Department, 14% of cholera cases resulted in death. In response, International Medical Corps provided surge support, capacity building and training for local staff in the area’s two largest treatment centers. Just one month later, the fatality rate fell to 2.5%, and two months later, it was less than 1%. This success is largely due to the fact that International Medical Corps trained local health professionals to prevent and treat cholera and then mobilized entire communities - from mayor to mom - in the fight against cholera, reaching over 2 million people with cholera education, awareness and prevention messages.
Since that time, International Medical Corps has continued to build the capacity of local staff and communities to respond to spikes in cholera and prevent cholera from taking hold - including after Hurricane Sandy that wreaked havoc on the country’s fragile infrastructure in October 2012 - and remains one of the few organizations focused on cholera prevention for vulnerable families in the under-resourced northern region of the country.
Over the last year, International Medical Corps responded to an increase in cholera cases that began in June 2013 in the North and North-East Districts. International Medical Corps’ "Cholera Response and Prevention Teams", staffed by local doctors, nurses, and hygiene specialists, visited communities in each district at least once each month, and up to several times a month for the more vulnerable communities. Teams worked directly with health clinics, and spread hygiene and cholera prevention messages to families to thwart the spread of the disease. In total, teams supported 33 ministry facilities; stocked local clinics with rehydration salts, the primary medication used in cholera treatment; provided medication, education, outreach and treatment benefitting 1.5 million people; distributed more than 300,000 water purifying tablets to families; disinfected latrines and households; and distributed additional hygiene items, including soap and detergents. These efforts contributed to a marked decrease in cholera cases; reported cholera cases fell in the first six months of 2014 by 80% in the North Department and 93% in the North-East Department.
International Medical Corps’ cholera treatment and prevention projects have been largely successful, however, cholera is still present in many parts of Haiti. During the hurricane season, when storms can wreak havoc on infrastructure, it remains critical that communities are ready to prepare for increases in cholera cases. Preparation includes the distribution of chlorination tabs; buckets; and water filters, so that families can ensure that their water is clean. The generous support from Global Giving and other donors continues to help International Medical Corps deliver these critical and effective cholera treatment and prevention programs and bring clean water to communities in rural Haiti.
Following its response to the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010, International Medical Corps’ teams responded to the equally devastating outbreak of cholera in late October 2010. International Medical Corps was one of the very first organizations to respond and had medical staff on the ground in one of the worst areas – Artibonite – days before the outbreak was confirmed to be cholera. International Medical Corps aggressively rolled out a network of cholera treatment centers (CTCs) and mobile medical units in Haiti’s most remote and affected areas to care for more than 39,700 cholera patients. International Medical Corps also trained and mentored more than 1,200 doctors, nurses, and community health workers so that our network of CTCs were established and staffed largely by local health professionals and could eventually be handed over to the MoH and be a part of the country’s long-term infrastructure to prevent and treat cholera.
Since that time, International Medical Corps’ work has focused on cholera preparedness and response to outbreaks, particularly in rural areas where access to health services and knowledge of cholera and how to prevent it is very low. During 2013, International Medical Corps’ work focused on cholera education and prevention activities in the Grand North, considered one of the country’s most under-served areas in terms of infrastructure and economy. The Grand North (including the North, Northeast and Northwest Departments) has demonstrated its vulnerability to cholera outbreaks, and since the initial outbreak in 2010, there have been over 135,374 suspected cholera cases within the three departments, with this region also seeing a higher case fatality rate than that of Haiti nationally, at 1.6%.
In response, International Medical Corps assessed the needs of several remote communities in the North and North-East Districts and focused its support on re-supply of the area’s health centers with general use and cholera medicines while also delivering education campaigns to help local residents prevent the spread of cholera. International Medical Corps, in partnership with the Council of Haitian Non-State Players (CONHANE) and the MSPP, worked with four community based organizations in the selected communities to conduct cholera prevention awareness activities through house-to-house visits and hygiene awareness sessions in churches and schools. By the end of 2013, International Medical Corps’ cholera prevention efforts in the north of Haiti indirectly benefitted more than 125,000 people.
Now, in 2014, International Medical Corps has continued its work responding to cholera outbreaks in Haiti in the Grand North through mobile medical units. International Medical Corps currently operates six mobile medical units staffed by trained Haitian health personnel who investigate suspected cases of cholera, provide treatment or referral, and sensitize and educate at-risk communities. Once a suspected case is identified through the surveillance system, International Medical Corps’ mobile medical unit team quickly deploys to the area to investigate the suspected case and provide treatment or support referral to the nearest health facility. The team educates the household and provide supplies to disinfect the home. The teams teach proper hand washing techniques; the importance of water treatment in order to avoid contracting cholera; and the proper use of latrines and waste management techniques.
After the household work is complete, the mobile medical team then focuses its prevention efforts with the surrounding community. The team trains and mobilizes community volunteers in the surrounding community to assist in awareness campaigns to remind the population that cholera is still present in their community and that they need to apply good hygiene practice to avoid the spread of cholera. As needed, the mobile medical teams also directly teach local residents how to identify all types of diarrheal related water diseases and cholera in particular, and how to properly prepare and use oral rehydration salts – critical tools in the fight against cholera.
Thanks to the generosity of Global Giving and other generous donors, International Medical Corps’ six mobile medical team (two in each targeted Department - the North, Northeast and Northwest) have achieved the following results from 2014 to-date: 19,576 individuals have been reached to-date with cholera prevention and health promotion messages, 19,127 Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) sachets and 88,450 aqua tabs were distributed, and 771 cases of acute diarrhea have been treated by International Medical Corps’ teams. While this work has helped to save lives and has laid an important foundation of knowledge in vulnerable communities in the Grand North, each hurricane season now brings with it the potential for a large scale outbreak, which combined with difficult terrain and low access to health care, could result in a rapid increase in cases and deaths. Looking forward, International Medical Corps plans to continue these mobile medical units in the Grand North through the fall and then transition to broader Disaster Risk Reduction activities to help to further build resilience at the individual, household, and community level to dangerous threats such as cholera as well as other hazards in the region.
During 2013, International Medical Corps’ efforts in Haiti focused on cholera prevention for vulnerable populations in the north of Haiti, indirectly benefitting more than 125,000 people. According to the Haitian Ministry of Health (MSPP), reports related to new cholera infections started to increase in those communities during the month of June. In response, International Medical Corps conducted weekly visits in Haiti’s Grand North District to confirm and evaluate the situation within targeted health facilities and to assess the condition of the cholera patients. During the visits, several problems were identified by International Medical Corps health professionals, including, among others, a (lack of medical supplies to treat patients infected by cholera and a low awareness of cholera among the at-risk population, to which may be attributed to shortages in available trained health staff and volunteers in the community to conduct Cholera awareness and prevention activities.
International Medical Corps assessed the situation and designed an intervention that would reinforce the capacity of the selected health facilities to response to cholera outbreaks and increase the awareness of the community to avoid the spread of cholera to the remote and underserved areas during the rainy/hurricane season. During the rainy season, flooding from strong tropical storms and hurricanes can contaminate water sources in remote areas and cause waterborne diseases to spread. These storms also damage the already poor road infrastructure, which can lead to medicine shortages and prevent patients with severe cases of cholera from being able to reach major health centers for treatment.
International Medical Corps assessed the needs of several remote communities in the North and North-East Districts and focused its support on re-supply of the area’s health centers with general use and cholera medicines while also delivering education campaigns to help local residents prevent the spread of cholera. Based on the distance and needs of each community and considering the generally poor road infrastructure of the region, four underserved communities and their respective health facilities were selected for this effort. These health centers were serviced in the following order: (1) Hôpital de l’Espérance de Pilate, (2) Centre de Santé de Dondon, (3) Centre de Santé de Ferrier and (4) Centre de santé de Sainte Suzanne. These four health centers serve a combined population of 125,326 people.
International Medical Corps provided a several month supply of medicines to the health centers and deployed community volunteers through local community based organizations for one month. Awareness training needed to be conducted to help the vulnerable communities recognize the ever present existence of cholera and that they needed to continue using good hygiene practice in order to avoid further cholera contamination. International Medical Corps, in partnership with the Council of Haitian Non-State Players (CONHANE) and the MSPP, worked with four community based organizations in the selected communities to conduct cholera prevention awareness activities through house-to-house visits and hygiene awareness sessions in churches and schools. During the awareness campaigns, the volunteers reminded the population that cholera is still present in their community and that they need to apply good hygiene practice to avoid the spread of cholera.
Thanks to the generosity of Global Giving and other generous donors, the intervention has completed all the planned activities and all result has been positive. International Medical Corps, along with CONHANE, was able to deploy 40 volunteers and two zones coordinators, reaching two communities in the North and two communities in North-East. Over 34,000 people in 4,839 households have been sensitized to the importance of proper hygiene practices to prevent the spread of cholera, and also received Aquatabs and oral rehydration salts (ORS) to treat the disease. Further, all 40 volunteers are available to continue the campaign which will ensure that an even larger number of people can be reached with critical hygiene education in the near future. Additionally, 100,000 water purification tablets (Aquatabs) and 5,000 ORS sachets have been distributed to prevent cholera in the community. While the project has been successful, it is important to remember that cholera is still present in Haiti. Prevention efforts must continue to stop the spread of cholera, particularly in vulnerable communities.
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