International humanitarian agency Oxfam has doubled its cholera response since the first cases were confirmed in October in Haiti. Oxfam’s water, sanitation, and hygiene education programs have reached more than 700,000 people in the capital Port-au-Prince, Artibonite in central Haiti, and Cap Haitien in northern Haiti.
“We are still coming across small villages where people are begging us to help stop this disease. There is not a single toilet or latrine in many of these rural villages. People are desperate to learn the basic hygiene measures that will keep their families safe,” said Paula Brennan, cholera response manager for Oxfam in Artibonite, Haiti.
“This national spread of this outbreak is a direct result of the abysmal sanitation infrastructure throughout Haiti that was a serious problem long before January’s earthquake. If all of us – the government of Haiti, aid agencies, donors – do not take this crucial opportunity to work together to truly ‘build back better,’ people will continue to die from preventable waterborne diseases,” said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, country director for Oxfam in Haiti.
In response to the January 12 earthquake, Oxfam has provided 450,000 people with clean water, latrines, and hygiene education to prevent the spread of disease, plastic sheeting for shelter, and grants for small businesses to help people restore their incomes. With the outbreak of cholera outside of the earthquake-affected zone of Port-au-Prince, Oxfam is now running two simultaneous emergency response programs – one for earthquake victims and one for people affected by cholera.
Oxfam’s most recent cholera response program, mounted over the weekend in northern Cap Haitien for 300,000 people, has temporarily ceased operation since Monday morning, due to violent protests that have blocked movement in the city. Oxfam staff are on standby to resume operations as soon as possible.