With the number of deaths still climbing from a cholera outbreak in the Artibonite and Central Plateau regions of Haiti, Oxfam now has a team of nine emergency specialists working in the area with 10 more to follow immediately. They will be setting up water, sanitation, and hygiene programs in the region of Petite Riviere, where about 100,000 people live.
A diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated, cholera has already taken the lives of more than 200 people in Artibonite and Central Plateau and sickened more than 2,500.
The outbreak is occurring north of Port-au-Prince, the capital, which is teeming with crowded camps for people who remain displaced since the January 12 earthquake leveled much of their city. Oxfam is continuing its extensive public health education programs in those camps in which it has been working.
In the affected areas, Oxfam’s first priority will be to get clean water to people. The organization will also be distributing soap and water purification tablets as well as running public health education programs. Oxfam’s goal is to stem the spread of the disease in Petite Riviere so that by Wednesday there are no new reported cases in that region.
Caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, the disease is easily preventable with good hygiene—and treatable with oral rehydration salts. Patients with severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids.
The cause of the outbreak is not yet known. But like much of Haiti, the area suffers from lack of access to clean water and decent sanitation services—leaving people vulnerable.
“Our goal will be to provide clean water, toilets, and perhaps most importantly, educate people about good hygiene practices,” said Cedric Perus, humanitarian program manager for Oxfam in Haiti. “Basic good hygiene is what will stop the spread of this outbreak.”
The government of Haiti is leading the response to the crisis, and aid agencies are coordinating with the government.