In the last few days, cholera cases have been slowly increasing and spreading throughout our service area, well beyond the original source of the outbreak. HAS has still been able to stabilize most patients and refer them from our rural clinics to the main cholera treatment center in the larger town of Verrettes, where we refer stabilized patients for full treatment. However, HAS is now beginning to see cases of patients with complications, such as renal failure caused by severe dehydration, and have admitted patients with life-threatening complications to the main hospital.
News about new cholera cases is developing hour by hour. Direct Relief contributed 600 gallons of bleach and 200 buckets with spigots this weekend to provide a reliable means of treating potentially contaminated water before it can be used for hand washing or drinking, and to help as needed with health center hygiene. Management Sciences for Health (MSH), a subcontractor of USAID, worked with Direct Relief and HAS in distributing part of this donation of bleach and buckets. This increase from an earlier pledge of 200 gallons is in response to HAS clinic heads' quick planning to arrange "firewall" work in our functional units of Liancourt and Deschapelles. Like in fighting wildfires, the goal is to neutralize fresh pulses of active cholera bacteria brought into new areas from contaminated soil or water washing in, or from vomiting/voiding as people infected somewhere else fall ill at home in the new area. A "firewall" of water treatment and decontamination is employed to stop the bacteria pulse from spreading to as yet unaffected areas, if at all possible.
Dawn Johnson, Administrative Director of HAS's Integrated Community Services Division, will be coordinating the distribution of these supplies on behalf of Management Sciences for Health, since HAS is able to quickly and safely transport and store these materials. HAS is also able to transport supplies efficiently in our service region including to the Barbe and Terre Nette communities, where the need is highest. In concert with Dr. Mésidort, the coordinator for the Health District in our service area, these supplies will soon reach Barbe, where quick action is crucial to prevent the further spread of this deadly and highly contagious bacterium.
HAS staff have worked through the weekend to coordinate the entire process, securing all the necessary materials both for HAS staff and for other health workers in our community-all with the goal of stopping cholera in its tracks. This week, HAS's Dawn Johnson will attend a meeting of healthcare organizations across Haiti in Port-au-Prince, to report on HAS's efforts and learn more about the national situation.
Reported cases of cholera are currently holding between 10 and 15 per day at the Bastien dispensary, but the time when cholera is present but still manageable is a sensitive and critical time for the entire community. HAS will coordinate to obtain materials from national programs whenever possible. However, those supplies are often not yet available in these critical first-response stages. HAS needs help to transport or buy everything from oral rehydration packets, to IV kits, to gloves and hand sanitizer.
For updates in our service region, check in with us often on Facebook (www.facebook.com/hashaiti.org) and Twitter (@HASHaiti).