Ready for the Rainy Season: Combating Cholera in Haiti

“No one should die from a disease that can be prevented with soap and water ”
AmeriCares CEO Curt Welling in a New York Times letter to the editor.

For many people, the rainy season brings the promise of a bountiful harvest —but in Haiti, heavy rains can bring something far more dangerous: cholera.  The month of June alone has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of registered cholera cases from the previous month. 

Since the 2010 outbreak, AmeriCares remains at the forefront of the fight against cholera, providing treatment supplies and working to help people prevent this deadly diarrheal disease before it strikes. The disease can kill quickly in unsanitary conditions, especially after disasters, floods or heavy rains. Fortunately, with proper and timely treatment, 99 percent of patients can survive.

“We’ve pre-positioned cholera supplies with partners in every corner of the country in advance of the rainy season,” said Julie Hard, AmeriCares Haiti Country Director. “At the same time, we are stocking our warehouse with more IV fluids, IV sets, rehydration salts, antibiotics, gloves, disinfectant and other crucial items in anticipation of urgent requests for aid.”

For Jean, a father of 8, fast action made a crucial difference.  Families living in remote mountainous villages like his are the first to be affected by heavy rains that can lead to cholera. Prompted by stories he had heard from families who did not seek help soon enough, Jean made his way down the mountain with his 3 sick children, traveling more than 4 hours to the nearest treatment center.  When they arrived at a center in Fond Parisien run by our partner Love a Child, the children were dehydrated, with severe diarrhea and vomiting.  After receiving treatment, the children’s condition improved.

Each year when the rains start, the number of people who come to the center for treatment quickly increases. Without treatment, serious cases of cholera can kill in as little as 10 to 12 hours.  Since the outbreak in 2010, cholera has killed more than 8,000 people in Haiti.

Prevention: Clean hands save lives

Photo courtesy of Love a Child
 Photo courtesy of Love a Child

AmeriCares provides treatment centers like Love a Child, as well as hospitals, clinics and health organizations with medicines and supplies to treat the sick. AmeriCares has delivered more than 325,000 cholera treatments to Haitian partners since cholera appeared – enough medicines to treat about 150,000 patients.

But we don’t stop there.  We distribute hygiene supplies such as buckets, water treatment tablets, bleach, soap, and other items to combat the disease by attacking it where it starts: with poor sanitation.  Through our partners we’ve supported the training of more than 140,000 community health workers to spread the word about lifesaving prevention practices – including hand washing and water treatment.  Our Haitian staff  continue to ensure that cholera treatment centers all across the country are stocked with medicines and supplies.