Caritas is focusing on prevention, providing access to clean water and hygiene awareness in response to the cholera epidemic hitting Haiti.
Over 3000 people have been infected and over 250 have died after cholera contaminated the water supply in north and central Haiti.
An earthquake 12 January caused massive damage in Haiti, including to the health, water and sanitation infrastructure. Many people are still living in cramped conditions in camps. Caritas was already involved in health and providing clean water as part of its reconstruction programme.
Caritas has given out 176,000 water purification tablets in and around Gonaïves where some cases are suspected. It is also providing rehydration kits and hand sanitisers.
“It is important to interrupt the infection chain. Cholera needs to be detected, affected people need to receive treatment and awareness has to be raised among the population. Clean drinking water and washing hands regularly are absolutely essential where cholera is concerned,” said Dr Joost Butenhop, health advisor to Caritas Germany, one of the Caritas organisations working in Haiti.
Authorities in Haiti say the cholera epidemic is slowing down, but many people are still at risk. A few cases of the disease have been detected in the capital Port-au-Prince but were isolated. With a large number of people living in over-crowded camps and in poor hygiene conditions it is essential that people are protected from the disease.
Caritas is giving out soap to families in Port-au-Prince. It is also preparing to boost hygiene levels in camps and is developing public awareness messages that put emphasis on the risks of cholera and how to prevent it.
Cholera is transmitted through bacteria in contaminated food and water. The disease causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea which leads to dehydration.
Caritas is midway through a 12 month recovery programme in Haiti begun in May. Improving hygiene and access to drinking water is one of the focuses of the US$176 million programme. The programme will be part of a larger five year response.
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