International humanitarian organization Oxfam is stepping up its cholera prevention work in the Carrefour neighborhood of the capital city Port-au-Prince to stop the spread of the latest cholera outbreak in the area.
Working in coordination with local authorities and international aid organizations operating in Carrefour, Oxfam will reach an extra 70,000 people with distribution of aquatablets to purify water, disinfection of houses where cholera cases have been detected, and massive public health promotion activities in Riviere Froide, an area of Carrefour. This is in addition to the 77,000 people living in camps in the Carrefour area to whom Oxfam already provides vital sanitation services. This area is highly susceptible to cholera because it lacks even the most basic sanitation facilities and there is very little access to clean drinking water.
“We are talking about very congested areas where open defecation is commonly practiced because there are very few latrines and little space available to construct them. Oxfam can provide an emergency response to the cholera outbreak, but we need the national government, with the support of international community, to provide long-term sanitation facilities and access to drinking water both in rural and urban areas, otherwise outbreaks will continue,” said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam´s Country Director in Haiti.
The current cholera outbreak in Carrefour is far worse than the one registered in November. At that time, there were a maximum of 900 reported cases of cholera per week. Now, health organizations are registering more than 300 new cases every single day. However, the number of deaths is far lower than in November as people are able to get help faster
“Haitians are now more aware of how they can catch cholera, how to protect themselves against it, and what to do when cholera symptoms arise. Cholera prevention is very straight forward: drinking clean water and using good hygiene practices. Yet, although people are aware of this, it is very difficult to follow those recommendations without the basic sanitation services in place. The arrival of heavy rains last week has also helped spread the bacteria into local water sources,” said Van Hauwermeiren.
Before the January 2010 earthquake, 50 percent of the urban population in Haiti and over 80 percent of the rural population did not have access to basic sanitation facilities.