Cholera in Haiti – 52 Cork volunteers grounded in Ireland


An outbreak of cholera in Haiti has resulted in more than 1,500 cases and 200 deaths.

The reported cases and deaths have come primarily from the Artibonite region, an area where there was no direct damage from the earthquake, but where there are very vulnerable populations living in impoverished situations.

The outbreak of cholera is currently spread across a 40 km radius area surrounding the city of Saint Marc which is 35km south of Gonaives, where Haven’s Build it Week site is located. Four cases have been confirmed in Gonaives.

300 volunteers, 52 of whom are from Cork were due to depart Ireland for Haiti this morning. Their departure has been postponed until Tuesday 26th of October at the earliest. Haven’s second Build it Week is due to take place as scheduled, on Saturday 31st of October. 55 of people from Cork are due to travel on this date. All of Haven’s volunteers will be contacted directly when travel dates have been confirmed.

Haven will carry out a Hygiene Promotion Session and kit distribution today in Gonaives with beneficiaries and the surrounding community in an effort to halt the spread of the infection.

Haven will be using the Hygiene Promotion Team from Port au Prince who are highly informed on precautions against cholera and what can be done when symptoms present. Haven will also ensure that all beneficiaries continue to have clean and treated water at all times.

The UN is coordinating a response and has been sending, staff, tents and rehydration supplies to the region to treat those affected and to try to stop the further spread of infection. Haven is working with the UN to provide assistance where required.

Haven has qualified medical staff in place in Haiti along with an experienced disaster relief team. Sufficient supplies of the appropriate treatments are already in the medical centre on the Build it Week site and repatriation and treatment routes are now open.

Food and water for the volunteer teams is already in Haven’s possession, and is being stored in a secure environment. The Build it Week site itself is a controlled site, with a fenced perimeter, and a strict security presence.

Cholera is transmitted through faecal contamination of water and food. In places where there is infrastructure damage, the lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation and hygiene can increase the risk of cholera, as well as numerous other diarrheal diseases.

Cholera is easily treatable, and if patients are given oral rehydration salts promptly to replace lost fluids, they can nearly always be cured.

Outbreaks can be mitigated and deaths can be reduced through several measures that are effective with community participation. Human practices in personal hygiene and food preservation have a major impact on the occurrence and severity of outbreaks.

Stephen Mitchell, Haven’s Financial Director, has advised that “We are acting on the basis of the advice that we are receiving from medical experts. The situation relating to Build it Week is under constant review.”

“We will be contacting all of our volunteers as soon as we have confirmation of our departure. We are in constant correspondence with our team on the ground, our medical and security experts and of course the airline in an effort to get our volunteers out to Haiti as soon and as safely as possible” he continued.

Haven is accepting donations to its Cholera Appeal via www.havenpartnership.org, or by phone on 01 681 5440.

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