Chikungunya Outbreak Affects Deep Springs Staff
Painful virus spreading across Haiti
Contributed by Christina Boyes
The mosquito-borne virus known as Chikungunya is spreading quickly in Haiti. Standing water and infected mosquitoes have combined to create a public health crisis. To date, more than half of the Léogâne office staff has been infected.
Michael Ritter, founder of Deep Springs International, was one of the first to contract the illness. "The most common symptoms are joint pain, rash, fever, and headaches. On the first day, I felt like I hit my foot on something, but couldn't remember what. That night I started to feel more generalized pain, and realized it might be Chikungunya." Ritter said.
One driver/security guard for Deep Springs was also affected.
The virus is prevalent in Léogâne due to its proximity to the coast. Like most illnesses carried by mosquito, the hardest hit areas are coastal regions or areas with high amounts of standing water.
Chikungunya is relatively rare in the western hemisphere. According to the CDC, the first cases in the Americas were reported in the Caribbean in 2013. At present, no vaccine or medicine is available for prevention or treatment of the illness.
During the course of the infection, many individuals find the pain debilitating. However, most patients recover within one week.
Deep Springs International spent the first few months of 2014 developing a new strategic direction in Leogane. We were thrilled to see that in March, the first month of fully implementing this new approach, that we had the best month in a year and a half. The new strategy includes new promotion methods, new agents, and a new credit system.
New Promotion Method: The biggest change in methodology was the suspension of household visits. Traditionally, this has been our primary method of reaching families in need of health education, water-purification products, and encouragement to consistently and properly treat their drinking water. However, in Leogane, for various reasons, this method was decreasing in effectiveness.
The new method involves community meetings instead of household visits. This approach is more cost-effective, but it seems to also be more effective in terms of education and behavior modification – as families who attend receive a lot of “positive peer pressure” from their friends and neighbors who share openly why they sacrifice their pennies (gourdes) to treat their water, and the health benefits they have seen.
Transitioning away from household visits has also led to our sales agents now working strictly on a commission basis. Agents always received a margin for sales of chlorine, but those who conducted household visits used to receive additional compensation. The new approach based solely on commission places even greater incentives on chlorine sales, which is our key indicator for both health impact and financial sustainability.
New Agents: Much of our efforts in January and February focused on recruiting and training new sales agents. We have recruited and trained over 40 new sales agents in 2014. In addition to an almost all-new sales team, the new method encourages sales via a variety of retail outlets such as pharmacies, boutiques, and schools. We even have sales points in previously unreached areas in the neighboring commune of Grand Goave.
New Credit System. We also launched a system of providing chlorine to new sales agents on credit. 28 new agents have paid for their initial stock and purchased more. The current sales numbers only include chlorine that has been paid for, which doesn’t account for an additional 1,000 bottles of chlorine that have been provided on credit. We expect to receive payment for most of those bottles this month, which would make May another high-sales month similar to March, which was our highest-selling month in at least a year and a half.
Did You Know....?
There are many Haitian proverbs that talk about water, a testimony to its importance on the island.
"Wòch nan dlo pa konn doulè wòch nan soley."
"The stone in the water does not know the pain of the stone in the sun."
According to the Mayo Clinic, women should consume an average of 2.2 liters of water per day. Men require more - they need an average of 3 liters per day.
You Can Make a Difference Today
Check out these opportunities to be a part of Deep Springs International
Communications Intern in Haiti: We are still accepting resumes for this Summer as well as Spring Semester 2015. This is a full-time internship in Haiti for a minimum of four months. Strong preference for those fluent in French or Haitian Creole.
Development Intern in Pittsburgh: This is a part-time or full-time internship for a minimum of six months. Strong preference for Pittsburgh native.