UNICEF Executive Director visits cholera-impacted residents at Haiti Treatment Centre

UNICEF Executive Director visits cholera-impacted residents at Haiti Treatment Centre

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake visits a girl receiving intravenous fluids for cholera, at the UNICEF-assisted GHESKIO cholera treatment centre in the impoverished Cité lEternel neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Intravenous fluids are administered to remedy the dangerous levels of dehydration that accompany the disease.

On 15 December 2010, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake visited Haiti to support accelerated mobilizations by all United Nations and other partner organizations to prevent the further spread of cholera and to ensure timely treatment for all those affected. Cholera is a deadly bacterial infection that is spread through contaminated food and water. The epidemic has hospitalized 46,749 and killed 2,193, and the number of cases and deaths continues to rise. Mr. Lake visited cholera treatment centres in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and met with religious leaders and partner and media representatives. He also met with His Eminence Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas, who is coordinating support for the mobilization against cholera among religious groups. Even before the 12 January earthquake, which has left 1.3 million people still displaced, Haitis access to sanitation was among the worst in the world. Post-quake recovery efforts have made significant progress in providing safe water and sanitation, but communicable diseases remain a threat. UNICEF is working with the Government and other partners to scale up cholera treatment facilities throughout the country and to disseminate cholera prevention information, as well as providing medical teams, water purification supplies, antibiotics, oral rehydration salts (ORS) and therapeutic foods. Haitis sanitation agency DINEPA (Direction Nationale de l'Eau Potable et de l'Assainissement) is also distributing chlorine tablets and safe water, and is testing water sources for contamination. On 12 November, UNICEF joined other United Nations agencies and partners to issue a new appeal for US $164 million  of which UNICEFs portion is US $25.2 million  to respond to the cholera emergency. Sixty per cent of UNICEFs portion of the appeal has been received.

16 December 2010

During a visit to the Haitian capital yesterday, Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, spoke with cholera patients and heard firsthand their concerns.

The visit took place at the GHESKIO Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC) in an impoverished area of the city. Lake also met with His Eminence Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas, Coordinator of ‘Religion for Peace’ an organisation that is mobilising Catholics, Protestant, and Voodoo religious communities throughout Haiti to support cholera prevention and healthcare practices.

Lake’s visit to Port-au-Prince was made in support of the UN community’s response to cholera, and Haitians themselves in their actions against the disease. The cholera epidemic, which emerged just two months ago, continues to spread throughout Haiti. It is now claiming lives in all 10 administrative departments.The centre, led by Dr. William Pape, is part of a network of 72 cholera treatment centres and units established across Haiti by UNICEF and partners. UNICEF is also carrying out cholera prevention activities such as supporting 5,000 schools, 300 child-friendly nutrition centres, and more than 700 residential care centres by distributing soap, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, and training teachers and children on safe hygiene practices.

Lake emphasised several points during his visit:
  1. Pledging the support of the United Nations, NGOs, and UNICEF in Haiti’s fight against cholera;
  2. The key to combating cholera is mobilising influential communities such as religious groups and leaders;
  3. The most important partners in defeating cholera are Haitians themselves, and helping them understand that cholera is preventable and treatable;
  4. Cholera can affect anyone, and those who are sick should not be afraid to receive help at CTCs;
  5. Current political tensions should not interfere with efforts to control cholera, a view no doubt supported by all parties;
  6. All humanitarian organisations should be allowed to work and have unfettered access to medical supplies and their distribution.
The suffering now being experienced by children and their families in Haiti, suffering brought about by the January earthquake, floods, and the current cholera epidemic, demand continued local and international commitment as well as political will.

“As always, and without exception, children are the most adversely impacted by crises such as this cholera epidemic and the January earthquake,” said Lake. “The responsibility we all share is to ensure that children and families are protected from these emergencies as well as from the recent political tensions.”

He stressed that the current environment of uncertainty and insecurity in Haiti places children and families at even greater physical risk and also inhibits the efforts of humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF.