As we arrive at the four-week-mark in this year’s battle against cholera, HAS is still fighting to prevent an uncontrolled outbreak of this virulent disease. Our facilities have seen 133 cholera cases since July 25 and are still counting. To put this into perspective, during the same period last year, we saw only twelve cases total! Though admissions are far lower this year than in 2011 – our peak year since cholera came to Haiti in 2010 – cholera is occupying much of our time and resources. We believe that prevention is the best way to maintain a healthier population and, in this case, to avoid fatalities due to cholera. Staff members have teamed up and made it their priority to make this happen, particularly our public relations team, our league of community health workers, and our wells, water and sanitation staff.
The HAS public relations office is the conduit through which our district residents communicate directly with HAS. As soon as the outbreak began four weeks ago, the team made an action plan and went straight to the source. They promote “awareness, mobilization and education” to empower communities to take care of themselves armed with the proper knowledge and materials; our staff visits churches and schools and even walks through neighborhoods with megaphones to disseminate health messages, distributing materials such as water purification tablets and hand soap along with their messages.
Our community health workers are working overtime to ensure that the population is informed and equipped. In addition to their usual service provision (administering vaccines, screening all children under five for malnutrition, etc.), these dedicated employees have focused their education sessions almost entirely on cholera and hygiene in response to the outbreak. Furthermore, they are distributing materials including oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets, as well as disinfecting homes using sprayers filled with bleach solution.
Last but not least, the wells, water, and sanitation team has adjusted its work in light of recent cholera updates. They normally serve the community 365 days per year to bring clean water to hundreds of thousands of people of the Lower Artibonite, this cholera season they have made special adjustments. For example, the follow-up technician in charge of Biosand water filters and tippy-tap hand washing stations is now a full-time employee; he and the other team members are emphasizing the critical need for filters, tippy-taps, and the other preventative measures they are promoting and repairing on a regular basis. HAS knows that cholera can be avoided with clean water for drinking and washing; we are doing everything we can to attack the disease from all angles.
In the past week, our community health centers have seen a diminished cholera caseload. We are encouraged by this news, for it could mean that our community preventative work has helped to calm the spread in the mountains. At the same time, however, the hospital triage unit continues to experience steady and relatively high patient volumes; though admissions average around 3 new patients daily, last Sunday was the year’s record for highest admissions in one day: twelve. The majority of these new patients are, as they were last week, from the valley area. We also observe a nearly even split between pediatric and adult patients, in contrast to previous years when adults made up closer to 70% of total cholera patients. Our preventative service providers throughout the organization are thus following the news closely, and concentrating their efforts where they are most needed.
Thank you for your continued support through this crucial time. We will continue to report on the evolving situation and you can help us by spreading the news and encouraging your networks to help support us in this time of need.
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