UNICEF positions emergency supplies for tropical storm as cholera outbreak continues in Haiti

UNICEF positions emergency supplies for tropical storm as cholera outbreak continues in Haiti

On 23 October, a toddler and her mother receive packets of oral rehydration salts (ORS) at the health centre in Grand Dessalines, a town along the Artibonite River. The river is believed to be contaminated with cholera. The package of ORS bears the UNICEF logo. [#11 IN SEQUENCE OF 12]

By 26 October 2010 in Haiti, an outbreak of cholera had infected 3,342 people, killing at least 259. Cholera is a deadly bacterial infection spread through contaminated food and water; children are the most vulnerable. The outbreak is the countrys biggest medical crisis since the 12 January earthquake. Even before the quake, Haitis access to sanitation was among the worst in the world, a situation that is now greatly exacerbated by ruined infrastructure. While recovery operations made significant progress in providing safe water and sanitation to quake survivors, communicable diseases have remained a persistent threat. The outbreak primarily affects the Artibonite and Central departments, but suspected cases have also been reported in the North and West departments. Five cases have been confirmed in Port-au-Prince, where some 1.3 million people live in dense camps with inadequate sanitation facilities, making them highly vulnerable to a cholera epidemic. In response, Government and humanitarian agencies have stepped up surveillance and prevention measures in the capital. UNICEF and partners are providing medical teams to assist overwhelmed hospitals, and are distributing water purification chemicals, antibiotics, diarrheal disease kits, oral rehydration salts (ORS) and therapeutic foods to affected regions. The Haitis sanitation agency, DINEPA (Direction Nationale de l'Eau Potable et de l'Assainissement), is distributing chlorine tablets and safe water, and is testing water sources for contamination. The Government, together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, is establishing cholera treatment centres throughout the country, and is launching a public information campaign about cholera prevention.

3 November 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, 3 November 2010 – UNICEF is rushing to ensure adequate emergency supplies in preparation for a severe tropical storm, as it works with UN and NGO partners to support the Government of Haiti’s response to the recent cholera outbreak.

“UNICEF staff have been working with our partners around the clock to help address and contain the cholera outbreak,” said Ms Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Now, the potential landfall of this tropical storm endangers the work completed to date and poses a new threat of the water-borne cholera disease being spread by inland flooding.”

According to information released today by the Haitian Ministry of Health, there have been 442 deaths and 6,742 hospitalisations attributed to cholera in numerous locations throughout the country, suggesting that the disease continues to spread rapidly.

Special emphasis for the cholera response has been on informing communities and families about the preventative actions they can take to protect themselves from cholera. Community mobilisers are sharing health and sanitation-related information with residents as they distribute UNICEF-supplied oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets. Patients and their families being treated at health care facilities are also receiving preventative information.

UNICEF is focusing supply distribution efforts in distributing medical, nutrition, and sanitation stocks. Tropical storm contingency supplies are being prepositioned in communities throughout Haiti, including areas not directly affected by the cholera outbreak. These supplies include water purification kits, tarpaulins, oral rehydration salts, jerrycans, water purification tablets, and zinc tablets, which reduce the effects of diarrhoea.

Pre-positioned stocks, however, may not be sufficient. Urgently needed are additional water, hygiene, and sanitation supplies. UNICEF Haiti is sourcing many of its stocks directly from suppliers worldwide.