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American Red Cross Programs Helping to Fight Cholera in Haiti

With concerns about a potential new outbreak of cholera in Haiti, the American Red Cross continues working on several programs to fight the disease.

The second phase of a new cholera vaccine campaign is underway. The campaign, which began in May, is organized by Partners in Health (PIH) and supported by $1 million from the American Red Cross. The first phase of this two-dose vaccination effort has been completed. Overall, the campaign seeks to help 100,000 people in rural and urban communities throughout Haiti.

“From everything I’ve seen, there is no one who was eligible for the vaccine who didn’t want it. It’s really great,” said Djencia Eresa Augustin, a cholera surveyor for PIH.

Overall, the American Red Cross has contributed more than $17 million to battle the cholera outbreak in Haiti, including providing medical specialists and supplies, and running treatment centers.

Guillaume Marie Dolores, a Red Cross volunteer, teaching residents of Cabaret, Haiti, how to prevent diseases like cholera with thorough hand washing. Photo by: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross.

In addition to the vaccination program, the American Red Cross is working in the North, Northeast and West Departments of Haiti to combat cholera and ensure the availability of resources, supplies and on going education through this year’s hurricane season.

Since the beginning of the cholera outbreak, the Red Cross has mounted an aggressive response to stem the spread of the disease and to provide care for those infected by it. Trained volunteers go into camps and communities throughout the country distributing soaps, oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets. Additionally, oral rehydration points have been set up and volunteers trained to staff those locations ensuring patients have access to immediate treatment.

Without access to clean water, many of these efforts would be in vain. The American Red Cross has spent more than $47 million to ensure access to clean water and improved sanitation. Projects have included financial support of Port-au-Prince’s first wastewater treatment plant, as well as support to many partner organizations focused on providing safe water for consumption and hand washing, building of latrines, improved drainage and wastewater removal.

A cholera report released June 19 by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies highlights concerns about a reduced overall response capacity to cholera outbreaks as many non-profit organizations have begun to pull out of Haiti nearly two and a half years after the 2010 earthquake.

The report notes that the global Red Cross network and the American Red Cross continue supporting programs and efforts to ensure that a spike in cholera will be met with needed resources and commitment to this epidemic.

The Haitian Red Cross, with the support of the global Red Cross network, is working on a Cholera Contingency Plan aligned to the National Cholera Contingency Plan.

Emergency stockpiles of medical supplies are in country and on standby. Red Cross medical facilities deployed during the peak of the epidemic have remained in Haiti and are ready to be released should cases continue to increase. The number of trained Red Cross community health workers will also be increased to help respond to potential cases and hygiene promotion activities for vulnerable groups, particularly in camps, will be scaled up. Information campaigns to the population, combining SMS, sound trucks and radio will also be implemented to support the work of community volunteers.