Project

Cholera reaction

Date of Activity: 04 Mar 2011

The achievements of the Hydration2Haiti fundraising initiative beginning end of 2010. - Distribution of rehydration salts - Clean water supply provided at Waf Jeremie, Delmas 33, Cite Soleil

Everyone was appalled by the emergence of a deadly and rapidly spreading cholera epidemic in Haiti as 2010 drew to a close. Even before the earthquake, the country was in a desperate grip of poverty and now adversity seemed to be stacking up.

 The cholera epidemic exploded just before we were about to set off on our November mission to Haiti, so we had a couple of weeks to do what we could to help in our limited capacity. Though cholera can kill through severe dehydration within five hours, if treated promptly it is very rarely deadly and treatment is remarkably straightforward. Treated early, a patient may merely be treated with huge amounts of clean water and rehydration salts, or even just salt and sugar. In more severe or advanced cases, an IV may be neccessary and maybe antibiotics in addition to this. The main problem with the cholera epidemic at the beginning was the lack  of awareness and education in Haiti about how to avoid getting the disease, and also how deadly it could be very quickly after symptoms beginning. Also, clean water and food are simply not an option for huge swathes of the population, particularly in poor rural areas and in the slums of the cities with their open sewers. The many camps in Port Au Prince with their cramped conditions and lack of amenities also provided a frightening area of susceptibility for the disease.

With Hydration2Haiti we spread the message thoroughly through the local media. We made people aware of how cheap rehydration salts were, how easily available from local pharmacies they were, and how crucial they were in treating cholera. The feedback and response was staggering, and we managed to gather a little under five thousand sachets and stuff them into every available space in our bags. We also managed to raise enough money through donations to fund three self-purifying water storage systems. These could be put in especially needy areas, and then filled with almost any 'grey' water available which would then be quickly purified and stored in large amounts. See below for more details.

 We had to firstly maintain our pre-existing projects in Leogane and the Port Au Prince area, so we made sure that each small group we work with had enough salts for an emergency, in case they couldn't get to a doctor immediately. We also gave a number to the Camejo hospital in Leogane which is an ongoing project of ours. Most crucially however, was the designated Cholera Clinic at Warf Jeremie, run by a nun called Sister Marcella and on the edge of the desperately poor sprawl of La Saline slum. We found this clinic full of cases, and with only enough rations for 6 patients, of rehydration salts left. We gave them around 3000 which they graciously received, yet we also had to provide a large amount of clean water as the elections were looming with their probability of violence and chaos on the streets, which indeed materialised. Upon leaving the clinic the air was very tense, and a riot directed at MSF was loudly gathering intensity.

 

 FOUNTAINS OF HOPE: 

We were lucky enough to meet in Port Au Prince a man from Indiana named Bill Farrar, who has become a good friend and a great partner with our aid work in Haiti. Bill showed us some ingenius water systems that he had been installing literally all over Haiti and also in many other Third World Countries. This was an organisation called Fountains of Hope. He showed us how these systems work. They comprise of a large barrel for storage, and also a purification system which uses only a tiny amount of salt and electricity (from a car battery) to make the water clean with chlorine. A huge amount of water can be made safe in a small amount of time, and then is also stored for mass-usage. We had managed to raise the funds for three of these and so we agreed that if we would fund them, Bill would soon return with his team to install them. The operation is also straightforward enough that Haitians can be easily trained in their purification methodology and maintenance within hours, so they can be run no problem when are all back at home. 

 We had to decide where to put these three systems. At this point we met a man who has since become a very good friend of hours, Mardi Paris Junior aka. Genesis. Genesis is the leading member of a committee responsible for a camp in Delmas 33 of around 30,000 residents and with no clean water supply or toilets. We quickly decided to install a double system here, and have been working with Genesis and the camp ever since. Some friends of ours called We Advance had also just built a Womens Clinic at Warf Jeremie, a refuge for vulnerable women in an area where rape and domestic violence were particularly bad. We installed a single system here. We also heard of a school in Cite Soleil run by Onel Francois in an especially poor area, and decided to put another system here. We are now also very heavily involved with developing this school itself. 

  

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