Crowded conditions in camps, limited access to water and heat poor sanitation combined to create a cholera time bomb for Haiti’s earthquake victims.
The first cases emerged in the Artibonite region in mid-October. Two months later, over 2,300 people had died from the disease and over 100,000 had been ill.
Cholera is spread through infected water. People who catch it can get severe vomiting and diarrhoea which lead to dehydration. If a case isn’t treated in time the person can die.
In the first 48 hours of the epidemic, Caritas Haiti in Gonaïves started to give out over 170,000 water purification tablets, hand disinfectant, rehydration salts and antibiotics.
Caritas Haiti and other Caritas member organisation embarked on awareness campaigns to tell the public about how necessary good hygiene was.
Caritas in Jacmel focused their awareness raising in schools. Staff trained teachers in hygiene promotion and cholera prevention. They also distributed water purification tablets in schools.
Caritas Haiti also engaged doctors and nurses in various dioceses to back up its cholera programmes with expert advice.
Other Caritas member organisations have been running hygiene awareness programmes to prevent the spread of cholera. But even before the epidemic began, Caritas was providing camps with drinking water, latrines and hygiene education in a bid to keep occupants healthy and safe.
While people are living in cramped spaces, there will always be a risk of infectious diseases. The long-term solution is to get people into permanent accommodation with good sanitation as early as possible.