Haiti: Simple actions that save lives


June 6, 2011

Stories and photos by Mildrède Béliard, CARE Haiti

On the road to Carrefour, nothing has changed. At the entrance to the town, you see the market where fruit and vegetable waste is rotting and where traders stand with their feet in water.>

You may not notice it but the town has been facing a resurgence of the cholera epidemic, which reappeared here just under two weeks ago. This morning, a 12 year old boy died. He was one of two people carried on the backs of other residents of the site to a Cholera Treatment Center (CTC). He did not make it. He was living near the camp Bel Air 3. He had been ill since the previous afternoon, but his mother refused to admit that he had cholera until camp residents, trained and sensitized by CARE, realized he was suffering from the disease.

In the car taking us to Lycée Louis Joseph Janvier, which houses more than 1,200 people, the cell phone of Naomie Marcelin, one of CARE's health promotion activities supervisors, does not stop ringing. She is told that three cases have been identified in a site that had not previously been affected by cholera.

"Last week we distributed aquatabs in sites where we work already. We have also offered HTH solutions (concentrated chlorine) to disinfect the tents where there is a risk of cholera," says Naomi. "During the week we plan to deliver oral rehydration salts (ORS) to households."

Naomie is dismayed about the death of the young boy . To avoid a similar situation, she plans to propose the installation of oral rehydration posts (ORP) on sites in remote areas. "The boy died of dehydration. If people had been able to rehydrate him before taking him to the CTC, he would have survived," she explains.

At Lycée Louis Joseph Janvier, CARE teams are ready! They have posters and leaflets to explain key practices to prevent the spread of the cholera epidemic to representatives of a number of other local camps.

Around 20 people are present. Some are members of mothers' or youth clubs created by CARE WASH and Health teams to serve as peer educators.

Brice Sodlon is a voodoo priest who performs at Lycée Louis Joseph Janvier: "It is essential to learn, especially if you are a leader in your community. My family lives in this camp. My friends live in this camp. It is a duty for me to learn how to protect them from this disease," said Brice. "CARE can't stop. CARE does not have the right to stop. If CARE had run this training at the start of the crisis at Grand'Anse, I am sure all these voodoo priests would not have been killed by the people who were accusing them of causing the disease," he says.

Like other participants at the training, Brice knows the essential actions to take to protect himself against cholera: wash hands regularly, treat drinking or cooking water, cook food well, wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly with chlorinated water, treat human waste. Simple actions that save lives.

The cholera outbreak, which had decreased a few months ago, returned in force two weeks ago, affecting areas in which it had not previously been seen. CARE has started training and awareness sessions in camps, and also plans to distribute hygiene kits, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts and concentrated chlorine solutions.

On Saturday, May 4, CARE donated sanitation equipment – wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, trash cans – to Carrefour City Hall, which had organized activities to mark International Environment Day. These materials will be used to clean camps and public areas to avoid the worst.

Haiti: Simple actions that save lives image 1

Béatrice Jean-Louis and Magdala Saint-Ange, CARE staff members, holding a training session on cholera prevention at Lycée Louis Joseph Janvier, an IDP camp housing approximately 1,200 people. The cholera outbreak hits Carrefour where more than a thousand people are hospitalized.

Haiti: Simple actions that save lives image 2

Brice Sodlon, a voodoo priest in Carrefour, participating in the training session

Haiti: Simple actions that save lives image 3

A CARE mother's club member showing to the group how to use purification tablets to clean water at the training session.