Ready in Advance: Combating Cholera Worldwide

Global Cholera Initiative makes a life-saving difference

Photo by Matthew McDermott, All Rights Reserved.
Photo by Matthew McDermott, All Rights Reserved.

americares quoteThese supplies were a huge help to our fight against cholera. I will always remember what AmeriCares did to help us—before anyone even knew that cholera was coming. ”

— Lorelle G. Moise RN, Director, Real Hope for Haiti Clinic

When 40-year old Haitian farmer Marcel Fontilus saw posters and heard community educators talk about cholera, he was dismissive at first.

But when Marcel began to experience symptoms of the potentially deadly diarrheal disease, he remembered the messages he’d seen and heard and quickly made his way to a cholera treatment clinic. AmeriCares Haiti supported every step in Marcel’s recovery—the posters, community educators and the clinic stocked with cholera treatment supplies.

Over the years, AmeriCares has gained ground in the fight against cholera in Haiti as well as Chad, Iraq, Kenya, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. The highly contagious disease spreads easily and can kill quickly in unsanitary conditions, especially after disasters, floods or heavy rains. Fortunately, with proper and timely treatment, 99% of patients can survive.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are between three million and five million cases of cholera a year, resulting 100,000 to 120,000 deaths. In Haiti, our medicines and supplies have made a lifesaving difference for Marcel, and tens of thousands of people stricken with the disease since the 2010 epidemic.

Prevention and preparedness

Worldwide, we are working with icddr,b (International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh) on training and readiness. Where cholera is a threat, we are training health care providers to deliver the most effective care. The training is part of a joint Global Cholera Preparedness Initiative, announced  at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

Unloading Cholera medicines in Sierra Leone medical assistance program
 
 Our recent delivery of treatment supplies in Sierra Leone is helping combat a regional outbreak of cholera.

The first joint international response by AmeriCares and icddr,b is underway in Sierra Leone, where an emergency was declared after the number of cholera cases had risen to 2,000 per week. Following an assessment by a relief team of the situation on the ground, medicines and supplies to support cholera response activities arrived on September 12.

Rapid response

We can mobilize a response to an outbreak within 72 hours—dispatching a pre-positioned cholera supply module with enough medicines and critical supplies to treat 15,000 people.

Marcel wasn’t aware of our preparation for his outbreak—only that help was there when he needed it. But others are taking note.

“This is increasingly the future of disaster management,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tina Rosenberg wrote about AmeriCares efforts External Link in the New York Times. “Pre-positioning to get what’s needed to where it’s needed earlier.”