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Haiti: Red Cross Responds to Cholera Outbreak

The Red Cross is responding to a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 138 people in Haiti’s rural Artibonite and Central Plateau regions north of Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian Ministry of Health said Friday that more than 1,500 people have been affected so far and the government has imposed a sanitary cordon around the affected regions in an effort to control the spread of disease.

Most of the cases have occurred in the interior of Haiti in a region along the Artibonite River. The towns of Mirebalais and St Marc have also been severely affected.

These areas were not directly affected by the January 12 earthquake, but they have since become home to thousands of people who were displaced by the quake.

Convoy with water, chlorine and sleeping mats

The Red Cross global network launched a rapid and coordinated response with the Haitian Red Cross mid-week when symptoms first began to appear. On Wednesday, a Red Cross truck loaded with medical supplies was sent to a hospital in St Marc that is handling many of the cases. These supplies included IV fluids, oral serum, antibiotics, first aid kits, and water filters.

Another convoy of Red Cross trucks is scheduled to leave Port-au-Prince Friday carrying over 8,000 gallons of clean water, chlorine, 300,000 aquatabs, 5,000 surgical masks and gloves as well as large tents and sleeping mats to increase the local hospital’s capacity. In addition, the Red Cross is also sending three cholera kits capable of treating 3,600 people. Teams of Red Cross health and water/sanitation experts are standing by to assist as needed.

The American Red Cross, which is running the largest health promotion effort in the camps of Port-au-Prince, has offered support by making available its health and water/sanitation experts, and is also providing large quantities of chlorine to support the operation of water treatment plants.

Hygiene promotion by SMS

These activities are being supported by a massive SMS campaign by the Red Cross network that began Thursday and aims to reach the affected population through thousands of text messages that give advice on good hygiene and safe water practices. Two text messages per day will be sent to the affected region for at least several days.

The Red Cross network is working closely with the Haitian government’s Ministry of Health and Department of Civil Protection to support local health and water systems in response to this outbreak. The Red Cross is also coordinating its response with the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations in Haiti.