The approaching 2014 rainy season in Haiti and the Dominican Republic could mean an increase in the threat of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, and the American Red Cross continues its efforts fighting the disease in the region.
Cholera reoccurred in Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake struck in what were the first cases in at least a century. In Haiti in 2010, where the American Red Cross had been providing post-earthquake relief, teams initially focused on improving awareness about proper hand-washing, distributing soap and clean water, mobilizing health teams, dispatching cholera treatment units and providing oral rehydration points to help people survive. The Red Cross launched nationwide public education campaigns using cell phones and weekly radio shows to spread prevention messages.
Since 2010, the American Red Cross has spent or committed more than $19 million towards cholera prevention and response efforts in Haiti that have reached some 3.2 million people. Aware that the fight against cholera is not done in isolation, the American Red Cross recently committed $225,000 to cholera response efforts in the Dominican Republic.
This rainy season, the fight against cholera continues. For example, the American Red Cross has partnered with a local organization called Haiti Outreach Pwojè Espwa (H.O.P.E.) to operate a hospital, a clinic and 19 oral rehydration points in northern Haiti. Together, H.O.P.E. and the Red Cross have trained health workers, volunteers, and water and sanitation technicians to educate people about cholera treatment and prevention.
During the hurricane season, heavy rain, flooding and landslides exacerbate the threat of cholera. In order to decrease community vulnerability, American Red Cross volunteers and staff conduct widespread door-to-door hygiene promotion while distributing soaps and rehydration salts.
On the eastern side of the island, the American Red Cross contribution will help the Dominican Red Cross implement a community-based health program to reduce the risk of infection and exposure to cholera for people living in the country’s most vulnerable areas. This includes activities such as the distribution of hygiene kits, repair of water and sanitation systems in schools, and delivery of water filters.
Improved water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as increased medical capacity are vital for the eradication of cholera and other communicable diseases in the region. The American Red Cross has spent the past four years investing in both of these sectors — committing more than $49 million to water and sanitation and nearly $66 million on complementary health projects that support hospitals and public health infrastructure in Haiti. About $5.5 million went towards the construction of Mirebalais Hospital—run by Partners In Health—and $10 million to a hospital in Jacmel that is currently under construction.