Provide medical care to Haiti

by International Medical Corps
Christine is fighting cholera in Haiti
Christine is fighting cholera in Haiti

When the devastating earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, it was immediately followed by another disaster—a deadly outbreak of cholera. Christine was already an experienced nurse when she joined the International Medical Corps team. “I was especially shocked at the number of child victims,” she said. For Christine, it was a deeply personal cause—she lost her seven-year-old child in the earthquake, and she refused to watch more children perish from a preventable and treatable disease.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease and, if left untreated, can kill within a matter of hours. Following the 2010 earthquake, some 9,000 people died from cholera. Between 2015 and 2016 there was an increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, especially in the north, which has shown the highest vulnerability to cholera since the outbreak in 2010. When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October, massive flooding and widespread damage to infrastructure caused another outbreak across the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. Today, some 8,900 new cases of cholera are suspected across the country.

International Medical Corps has been working in Haiti since the earthquake in 2010, responding to ongoing medical needs, including cholera treatment and prevention. In the Nord and Nord-Est departments in the north, our team of nurses and hygiene experts supports health facilities during cholera outbreaks and operates three mobile medical units equipped with essential cholera medicines, and sanitation and hygiene items, such as soap and toothpaste. We have also significantly contributed to the improvement of cholera surveillance systems by early reporting and tracking of data on suspected cases, as well as case management to ensure patients get the follow-up care they need. Our teams also visit the patient’s home, apply chlorine treatments and provide education on sanitary conditions.

Following Hurricane Matthew, our teams deployed seven mobile medical teams to provide primary care to the hardest hit areas of the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. We are also providing clean water and sanitation support so that shelters and health facilities can remain open. Our teams established oral rehydration points to save the lives of those who are suffering from aggressive cholera symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Finally, to prevent the further spread of disease, we are supporting vaccination implementation and promoting clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

After the cholera epidemic of 2010, Christine was exhausted, both physically and psychologically, and stepped away from her role as a first responder with International Medical Corps, though she continued to work in health care and trained other nurses. When Hurricane Matthew struck, she rejoined our response team, saying, “In particular, I like the way International Medical Corps works on the ground. Their teams are really dedicated and take special care of children and patients.” Since then, she has treated dozens of suspected cholera patients, from as young as 3 years old up to 84 years old. She added, “Cholera excludes no one, but it is the poor and the vulnerable who suffer the most.”

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community for your support as we continue to provide life-saving cholera prevention and treatment to the people of Haiti.

Families stand in line to receive care
Families stand in line to receive care
Christine treating a young child
Christine treating a young child
Building flood walls near Trou-du-Nord
Building flood walls near Trou-du-Nord

Preparing for disaster in the northeast corner of Haiti can seem like a daunting task. The region is prone to flooding, jobs are scarce, most housing is inadequate and few people have enough to eat. Rather than focusing only on the challenges, International Medical Corps’ approach emphasizes resilience as the key to preparation. Yuri Chakalall, International Medical Corps’ Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Advisor, explains, “By focusing on resilience in Haitian communities, we are focusing on what they can do for themselves. We strengthen their ability to respond during the next disaster according to their capacity, rather than concentrate on their vulnerability.”

International Medical Corps has been working in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of 2010. Over the last six years, we continue to help the people of Haiti recover from natural disasters and fight diseases such as cervical cancer, cholera, and Zika. Wherever possible, we are also helping people be better prepared for the next disaster, by rehabilitating shelters and safe water sources.

When people in the villages of Ferrier and Trou-du-Nord need shelter from natural disasters or political unrest, they go to one of the three national schools in the area. Although the structures were relatively safe, until recently, they lacked basic amenities for good health and hygiene. Individuals had no access to safe, potable water or to latrines, and the dilapidated kitchen was filled with rubble and debris. In addition, when disasters, such as floods, do occur, the communities are cut off from basic services, such as medical aid, food and clean water. To make matters worse, areas that are prone to flooding have a higher susceptibility to water-borne diseases, such as cholera, which has been a concern in Haiti since 2010.

In Ferrier and Trou-du-Nord, International Medical Corps built gender-specific latrines, dug fresh water wells, installed water tanks and rehabilitated the kitchen at one of the shelters. We made sure that the villagers have access to safe and clean areas to shelter in the event of emergencies. To help prevent frequent and destructive floods, we also launched a Cash for Work program, working closely with the local government and community groups. This program employed local workers to build flood walls that protect the villages when nearby canals and rivers break their banks, using cobblestones and crushed rocks to shore up the river banks and planting trees to help prevent erosion.

For the people of Ferrier and Trou-du-Nord, the program made their communities more resilient in the face of future disasters, while also providing for their more immediate needs. “Our cash for work activities enabled people to pay for their children to go to school and feed their families,” said Tracy Morgan, International Medical Corps’ Country Director in Haiti.

We want to thank the GlobalGiving community for your continued support as we help Haiti make the journey from relief to self-reliance. To learn more about International Medical Corps’ emergency preparedness in Haiti for Hurricane Matthew, please visit:

The finished wall will help prevent local flooding
The finished wall will help prevent local flooding
New latrines for boys and girls
New latrines for boys and girls
Inside the shelter
Inside the shelter's old kitchen
The new kitchen at the emergency shelter
The new kitchen at the emergency shelter
Teams providing a mosquito net simulation
Teams providing a mosquito net simulation

The mosquito-borne virus, Zika, has infected more than 700 people in Haiti, and with the babies of infected pregnant women at risk for birth defects, such as microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, prevention is critical.

International Medical Corps has been working in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake—first, to respond to the emergency medical needs, and, in succeeding years, to the cholera outbreaks in the North and Northeast departments.

We have extensive experience implementing infection prevention and control measures. We responded to the Ebola outbreak and continue to work with governments in the West Africa region to help them build their health systems back up and prepare for the next outbreak. We provided polio and other vaccines for children, training health workers to watch for early symptoms in several countries in Asia and Africa. And, our teams responded to cholera outbreaks in Nigeria, Cameroon, and other affected countries, in addition to Haiti.

Zika is an emerging virus first identified in Uganda in 1947 in rhesus monkeys while monitoring for Yellow Fever. In 1952, the virus emerged in humans in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Now, officials recorded outbreaks of the Zika virus in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. The first 5 Haitian cases of Zika were identified on January 18, 2016.

To address Zika, we targeted two health facilities located in flood zones in Cap Haïtien: the Fort St Michel Hospital and the Complexe Médico-Social of Lafossette. Our teams trained 30 nurses and other health care personnel to go on and educate pregnant women to increase Zika awareness and prevention during pre-natal visits, with a special focus to women in their first trimester.

To date, we reached 650 pregnant women with education on Zika prevention. Our teams provided information to communicate what Zika is, its symptoms, and preventative actions, including information on how to avoid mosquito bites. We also distributed pamphlets in the commonly-spoken language, Creole, to further increase awareness. In addition, our teams disseminated 100 insecticide-treated nets and 100 mosquito repellent sprays, along with information about how to use them and their importance, to further reduce the risk of the virus.

Alongside these interventions, our mobile medical teams are educating communities about the importance of preventing mosquito bites to limit Zika, while speaking about cholera prevention—which is also linked to poor drainage and sanitation. These teams reached 650 women with awareness activities.

Staff from the two health facilities, government officials and the women we educated, were appreciative of International Medical Corps’ efforts to prevent the terrible potential effects of Zika on babies, and would like more women to benefit from our work in the future.

We thank you and the GlobalGiving community for your support as we work with the local populations to provide medical care and help prevent the spread of infection and disease in places like Haiti and across the world.  

Educating communities is critical for prevention
Educating communities is critical for prevention
We reached Fort St Michel Hospital with training
We reached Fort St Michel Hospital with training
Jean outside the St. Raphael Health Facility
Jean outside the St. Raphael Health Facility

Jean is a 56-year-old security guard at the St. Raphaël Health Facility in Haiti, the hospital where he was born. He survived the January 2010 earthquake and remembers when the cholera epidemic began, nine months later, in September. At the height of the outbreak, the St. Raphaël Health Facility received up to 20 cholera patients a day, with only two nurses to support the overwhelming influx of patients. “Our services were not very good,” Jean recalls. “The facility only had six beds so our patients had to lie down on the ground outside. People were dying every week.”

A combination of a history of poverty, natural disaster, neglected public water and sanitation systems, and under-resourced health infrastructure have magnified the impact of cholera in Haiti. International Medical Corps has been responding since 2010 with rapid treatment and long-term prevention services in the North Department and the North East Department of Haiti.

“Since International Medical Corps came here we started seeing fewer and fewer cases of cholera almost immediately,” says Jean.

Despite this progress, rapid response to cholera remains critical, particularly for the men, women and children living in remote and hard-to-reach areas. Due to mountainous terrain and a lack of roads, seeking health care can be a challenge—as can getting to the communities. As cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, our Mobile Medical Units respond to reports of cases within 24-48 hours. These teams are staffed by doctors and nurses and carry medicines and medical supplies that may be needed.

Because cholera thrives in places where clean water and proper sanitation are not consistently available, Mobile Medical Units are a critical piece of a total response that includes providing Cholera Kits to affected households. These kits include a bucket, soap, aquatabs, and oral rehydration solution. We also disinfect the home itself along with the ten closest homes and latrines, using the cordon sanitaire strategy, effectively creating a barrier against further infection.

International Medical Corps trains community health workers in disease surveillance and medical response. We also empower local communities to change behaviors favorable to the spread of cholera. Our cholera treatment and prevention campaigns include teaching the importance of hand-washing and using latrines, and keeping livestock from defecating in homes. We demonstrate the importance of boiling water to avoid contamination and the risk for cholera.

Our focus group discussions, educational campaigns in the schools, coordination meetings between health facility staff and community health workers, and radio messaging all contribute to stopping the spread of cholera.

Now thirty-four years into his job, Jean has many roles. In addition to being a security guard, he trains and supervises a team of 17 hygienists and cleaners, and works as a logistician for nutritional medical supplies and as a technician to ensure clean water at the St. Raphaël Health Facility. Jean shares International Medical Corps’ dedication to reaching those most in need.

We thank you and GlobalGiving for your support as we continue to address the most urgent medical needs in Haiti.

The team disinfecting a home to stop cholera
The team disinfecting a home to stop cholera
Community hand-washing demonstration
Community hand-washing demonstration
Medical Care in Haiti
Medical Care in Haiti

Cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water with the bacteria that causes it, can kill within hours if left untreated. However, with proper care the mortality rate is under 1%. The deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti is still on the rise, with an estimated 50,000 new cases this past year, up from the approximate 28,000 in 2014. More than 8,800 people have died from cholera and more than 736,000 Haitians have been infected since the outbreak began in 2010, months after the devastating earthquake.

International Medical Corps is proud to be the only international aid organization operating in the North and Northeast departments nearest Cap-Haitien, where the need for cholera treatment is great. International Medical Corps’ applies a holistic approach to cholera case management, recently training 90 health professionals and providing education for remote affected communities on prevention. When a cholera victim is identified, the teams disinfect his or her home to prevent the spread of cases. International Medical Corps is also advocating for, and repairing and building new cholera beds, which are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of cholera patients. The beds are typically simple to maintain, promoting hygiene and allowing for ease of access to bed pans.

With 33 cases already reported in the first two days of 2016, fighting cholera in Haiti is as critical as ever. Our mobile medical units are working every day to treat patients in cholera treatment units and in communities. As cholera is caused by contaminated water, we are also constantly working to reduce its risk by building sanitary infrastructures, including clean water sources, latrines, showers, foot baths and handwashing stations, as well as by building kitchens with access to clean water in local schools.

With the support of GlobalGiving and other generous donors, International Medical Corps continues its commitment to serve the most vulnerable populations and administer lifesaving treatment for cholera in Haiti.


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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Kimberly Laney
Los Angeles, CA United States
$246,019 raised of $250,000 goal
2,894 donations
$3,981 to go
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