CHOLERA outbreaks are on the rise again in Haiti following heavy rainfall in late March, warns children’s charity Plan UK.
According to Plan staff on the ground, mortality rates in some areas of the country are now as high as eight per cent and the situation is expected to worsen with the approaching cyclone season.
Haitians are particularly vulnerable at present, as many NGOs reduced their cholera response activities following the decline in infections during the recent dry season.
Plan Haiti’s Country Director John Chaloner warns that a strong and sustained NGO presence was still crucial in order to prevent further disaster in a country already ravaged by the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.
“Time is of the essence with cholera, which can kill a person within hours if left untreated. The majority of people in Haiti live without proper sanitation facilities or access to clean water and so support for Plan Haiti’s cholera response activities is as important now as it ever was,” says Mr Chaloner.
According to Haiti’s Ministry of Health (MSPP), since last November over 267,000 people have been infected with the disease and the death toll has now reached 4,747.
Plan Haiti has installed Oral Rehydration Points and Cholera Treatment Units in areas across the country, in an effort to reach people living in camps or areas made inaccessible by damaged roads.
Young children are especially vulnerable to infection and Plan warned of an increasing need for safe drinking water and access to sanitation facilities, particularly in the North-eastern part of the country.
“Mobilising to fulfill children’s need for clean water and sanitation in Haiti continues to be one of our highest priorities,” said Heidi Reed, Plan Haiti’s Communications Manager.
Plan’s cholera prevention and treatment activities include the installation of water tanks in schools, the distribution of hygiene kits and the drilling of boreholes to provide communities with safe drinking water.
However, some areas of the country still lack health personnel and the situation is worsening in the western region, which has no health centres and limited access by road.
“The consensus among health experts is that cholera will never completely recede from Haiti, which is why Plan must integrate cholera into all of its education, community health, disaster risk reduction and youth participation programmes,” said Mr Chaloner.
“To reduce the impact and the spread of the cholera outbreak, all actors involved in the response should focus their attention on prevention. The Government of Haiti and donors should invest in the building of cost effective and efficient water networks in urban areas and water and sanitation facilities for rural areas to ensure adequate access to potable water.”