On October 4, Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, directly hit southern Haiti, causing widespread damage, flooding, and displacement. As noted in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) situation report, the hurricane caused the largest humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, and hit a region already contending with increasing number of cholera cases, severe food insecurity and malnutrition. Affecting more than two million people throughout the country. 1.4 million people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, including access to a sufficient supply of quality water and cholera prevention services and treatment.
As a result of Hurricane Matthew, the number of suspected cholera cases has spiked in the South. With further increases expected, HHA acted swiftly to partner with St Boniface Haiti Foundation (SBHF) in setting up a new cholera treatment and prevention programme in the worst affected area. Thanks to your support this programme is underway and has already helped thousands of people with access to clean water and cholera vaccines, in addition to treatment for those who had already caught the disease. Here are some updates on the programme so far:
Cholera Treatment at St. Boniface Hospital
A treatment tent was constructed in accordance with national regulations, and is properly isolated from the rest of the hospital and population. The tent is fenced off, and all entering must undergo handwashing and foot spraying with a bleach solution. All waste is properly disposed of in a separate area, away from the main hospital. The cholera treatment tent is a permanent structure and is fully stocked in preparation for additional cholera patients.
Cholera Vaccination Campaign
HHA has directly supported the vaccination of 23,721 people over eight days. Each person received one dose, which is effective for three months. Many communities in the catchment area have proven vulnerable to cholera in the past, so the cholera vaccination campaign is a critical part of our prevention approach. In conjunction with continued education, it should help reduce the future spread of cholera.
During the cholera campaign, water purification tablets (“aquatabs”) and nearly 1000 hygiene kits were also distributed. Access to safe water sources in the region varies greatly, and aquatabs ensure that drinking water is free of pathogens. Community health workers also distributed aquatabs during rally posts –weekly health gatherings in the communities where information is shared— and during home visits. In the first 6 weeks, nearly 25,000 people benefited from these activities.
HHA are supporting mobile clinics in some of the hardest hit regions of Sothern Haiti. To reach some communities, staff must drive over six hours and hike between 30 to 60 minutes. While these mobile clinics provide a wide range of medical care, they also have the capacity to treat acute watery diarrhea with ORS plus zinc and IV treatment. Staff have already referred several cholera cases to local treatment centers and are distributing aquatabs in the clinics. 1,777 people have been seen by the clinics so far, and staff estimate that 8,000 people will be seen over two months. Supplies from HHA are being used for cholera prevention by the mobile clinics.
With such a strong community prevention response, we have thankfully seen only minimal numbers of severe cholera cases. With more prevention and education happening over the next few months we are hopeful that cases will remain low. With water testing kits arriving soon, work will be starting to assess the condition of water sources in several communities in the south west of Haiti. Further action will be taken if contamination is found.
We will provide further updates as the project progresses. Thank you so much for your support of this work.