CaribWorldNews, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Tues. Nov. 16, 2010: Simple commodities people in the U.S. take for granted, like soap and water, can help stem the infection rate of cholera in Haiti, experts say.
Nick Ireland, who is leading Save the Children`s cholera response in Haiti says, `At this point, our best hope is to reduce the rate at which cholera spreads and the best way to do this is to arm people with information and supplies to improve hygienic practices.`
Ireland added that health workers are going into the Haiti`s slums and camps and blocking the charge of cholera through the most vulnerable communities by giving families information that can save them and their children from the disease: `use clean water and soap to wash your hands, safely dispose of excreta, treat water at point of use, spread these prevention messages and seek treatment at the very first signs of the disease.`
Save the Children says its immediate concern is to reach the poorest neighborhoods that currently have limited access to health services, clean water and sanitation in densely populated areas like Port-au-Prince, as well as Jacmel (SE department), Dessalines, Maissade and Léogâne.
The organization has been working with the Haitian authorities and other humanitarian organizations since the beginning of the outbreak to prepare for the worst-case scenario of a nationwide epidemic.
It has focused on reaching into communities with information on how to prevent the spread of the disease, the importance of hand washing, treating water and seeking medical support at first signs of the disease. It has also been distributing clean water and building sanitation facilities such as latrines in camps and communities.
Cholera in Haiti has already claimed close to a thousand lives and the outbreak could last for as long as a year.
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders says since the disease was first confirmed in October in Haiti`s Artibonite region, its Médecins Sans Frontières teams have treated more than 10,000 suspected cases nationwide.
In addition to MSF`s 3,000 staff members in Haiti, more than 100 international staff and more than 400 national staff are working on cholera intervention activities. MSF is supporting two Haitian Ministry of Health hospitals in the Artibonite Region, where the cholera outbreak originated.
The UN is predicting up to 200,000 cases of cholera over the next 6 to 12 months, as Haiti also deals with the aftermath of January`s devastating earthquake and flooding in the wake of a recent hurricane.
With treatment centres facing demonstrations and a large, violent protest targeting MINUSTAH headquarters at Cap Haïtien Monday, communications between the UN and the population have been expanded to meet a growing need.
Some Haitians have grown suspicious of UN facilities in the area after a rumour began that a peacekeepers` camp was the source of the original outbreak. To help contain the outbreak, nearly half a million water tablets, soap and oral rehydration salts are being distributed, targeting areas where cholera has already been detected, a UN statement said.
A $164 million appeal was launched on Friday to get additional doctors, medicines and water purification equipment to respond to the epidemic, which has spread quickly since it was first confirmed on October 22nd.
Pope Benedict XVI is also lending his voice to the cause. He used his mass yesterday to call for more help to be sent to Haiti as the island nation struggles with an outbreak of cholera.