Responding to Cholera in Haiti
One year after a devastating earthquake, the country finds itself facing another challenge – an outbreak of cholera. Reports of the outbreak surfaced in October. According to a report by the American Red Cross, cholera appeared to be limited mostly to Haiti’s interior region along the Aribonite River. Although the January 2010 earthquake did not affect the interior region directly, the area has served as a haven for Haitians who fled Port-au-Prince after the disaster.
Since October, the outbreak has turned into an epidemic. Cholera has infected more than 81,000 people in Haiti and killed more than 2,000 so far. The disease has spread throughout the country. On December 3, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned in a speech that the disease could affect as many as 650,000 over the next six months, according to reports by the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization.
The MEASURE Evaluation team in Haiti has been hard at work in response to the outbreak since its initial reports. Haiti’s Ministry of Health invited Gerald Lerabours, MEASURE Evaluation’s resident advisor in Haiti, to a meeting about the outbreak the day it was first reported. Lerabours immediately returned from the meeting to dispense hand sanitizer to the MEASURE staff and to inform them how to prevent the spread of cholera.
Shortly after, Joseph Fanor joined the epidemiology unit to provide technical assistance and data management in response to the outbreak. Fanor has worked for MEASURE Evaluation since 2006. His task was to create and implement a data collection and monitoring system to track cholera in the country. Throughout November, Fanor and other partners visited health departments to implement the data collection process. The departments report back their cholera data daily.
The National Health Commission, to which Lerabours belongs, appointed Fanor to work with a French consultant who proposed mapping software to the MOH. The software is designed to analyze daily data on a map in order to see which areas are most affected by cholera so that health workers can respond quickly.
The MEASURE Evaluation team has employed several key strategies to guide its response to the cholera epidemic. These strategies include data analysis to better understand the epidemic, improving the current data collection system, disseminating messages about cholera prevention through radio and television, distributing water purification products and constructing cholera treatment centers.
As the disease spreads, the staff response grows. Fanor now joins the epidemiology unit twice per week to provide technical assistance in cholera mapping. He submits daily reports to the MOH.
“The situation is very complicated [as] the epidemic is expanding through all the country,” Fanor said.
We'll keep track of the situation and provide updates as events unfold.