Haiti two years after earthquake; 15 months after Cholera outreak

Today marks the second anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake, one of the most devastating disasters in the region. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the spread of cholera was one of the many challenges faced across the nation. Since the outbreak in October 2010, more than one million cases have been reported; with about 7000 deaths. More than a year after the first reported cases, about 200 people each day are being diagnosed with cholera.

This week, the Pan American Health Organization, along with officials in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the United States met to discuss ways to not only control the disease but to completely eliminate it on the twin-nation island. Much will need to be done in rebuilding Haiti structurally in order to stem this outbreak. In particular, the country needs to find ways to build an effective sewer system and to get clean water to its citizens. On the other hand, behavioral changes made through understanding and awareness of the steps that each individual can take to protect themselves–hand washing, boiling water and proper latrine use–are still needed.

I remember attending a TedX event a few months ago where a USAID official spoke about  using text messaging and radio programming for education purposes. Because of low-literacy rates, communication experts have to be careful what format they choose to use when reaching out to that community. As such, using text messaging and radio are just is two ways for people to get the message. Thinking on this also leads me to the many studies from the Positive Deviance Initiative and their approach to behavior change. Are there people in Haitian communities that are doing things right to stave off Cholera, despite all the challenges? What are they doing right? What steps are they taking? And, how can someone else in that same community with the same (limited) resources replicate those steps?  If anyone knows of how this is being manifested in Haiti, I’m interested in hearing about it.

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