Irish NGO, Haven, which was due to bring 300 volunteers to Haiti on Saturday last, has been forced to cancel its building mission as a result of an outbreak of cholera in the country.
Approximately 250 people have died, and it is estimated that a further 3,000 people have been infected.
The reported cases and deaths have come primarily from Saint Marc in the Artibonite region.
Four cases have been confirmed in Gonaives, where Haven’s Build it Week site is located.
300 volunteers were due to depart Ireland for Haiti on the morning of Saturday, 23rd of October. 51 of the disappointed volunteers are from Cork. It is hoped that a further 56 people from Cork will depart Ireland for Haiti as expected on 30th of October, 2010.
The group’s departure was originally postponed until Tuesday, 26th of October; however Haven has been forced to cancel the trip, due to uncertainty over the spread of infection in the country.
The organisation is contacting all of its volunteers directly to update them on the situation and to discuss their availability to travel on an alternative week the details of which the charity is currently investigating.
Haven’s second Build it Week will hopefully take place as scheduled, on Saturday 30th of October, however the situation is under constant review.
Haven is carrying out Hygiene Promotion Sessions and distributing Hygiene Kits in Gonaives with beneficiaries and the surrounding community in an effort to halt the spread of the infection.
Haven is using the Hygiene Promotion Team from Port au Prince who are very experienced in communicating the 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.
Haven is working with the UN to provide assistance where required as part of the Emergency Response.
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.
The Build it Week site itself is a controlled site, with a fenced perimeter, and a strict security presence.
Cholera is transmitted through 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.
Haven’s Founder, Leslie Buckley said “We are incredibly disappointed that we have been forced to cancel the first of our Build it Week’s scheduled for this week. We have no option but to listen to the advice of the UN and of the medical experts who are coordinating the response. We cannot put the health and safety of any of our volunteers at risk, we must focus our efforts on responding to the current crisis and preventing the further spread of the infection.”
“We are contacting all of our volunteers directly to update them on the situation, and to discuss the various options available to us. This is an incredibly unfortunate position for the people of Haiti, and for our volunteers who were so looking forward to their building mission, unfortunately this situation is out of our hands”, Mr. Buckley continued.
“Our team on the ground are working around the clock in an effort to prevent the spread of the infection, and I sincerely hope that we can run our second Build it Week as scheduled”, the Haven founder concluded