Following reports of 73 confirmed cases of cholera in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, International Medical Corps continues to expand operations in response to the widening outbreak throughout Haiti. Detected first in the Artibonite region, to the north, the potentially fatal disease has led to more than 917 deaths and 14,600+ infected. Mobilizing local health teams, International Medical Corps has established Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) throughout the Artibonite region, and prepositioned vital cholera medicines and staff to respond in Port-au-Prince.
“International Medical Corps is extremely concerned that cases of cholera have been identified in Port-au-Prince and could spread quickly among the vulnerable populations in tent camps,” says Dr. Jojo Cangao, International Medical Corps medical director in Haiti. “Cholera is a waterborne disease that can thrive where proper water and sanitation conditions are compromised. Conditions for further outbreaks have been seriously exacerbated by flooding caused this past week by Hurricane Tomas.”
Even before the catastrophic January earthquake, Port-au-Prince suffered from a broken health infrastructure and poor water and sanitation conditions. Devastation following the earthquake and the recent hurricane has raised new concerns that the tent camps are extremely vulnerable to contagious diseases like cholera. In addition to prepositioning cholera medications and staff in the city, International Medical Corps also has activated a highly effective and vast network of community educators via the Boy Scouts leadership, religious congregations, and other community organizations throughout Haiti; as part of an intensive health education outreach effort in each community. They, along with local health officials, are being trained to educate their communities on proper hygiene practices, as well as identify and refer cholera cases for treatment.
In Artibonite, International Medical Corps has implemented CTC’s at hospitals in Verrettes, St. Michel and Ennery where patients are being administered IV saline solution, water purification tablets, antibiotics, and oral rehydration salts to treat cholera. International Medical Corps is also supporting St. Marc Hospital, the largest referral hospital in the area, with supplies. At the hospital in St. Michel, International Medical Corps trained 2 doctors and 15 nurses on cholera prevention, management and treatment. International Medical Corps is also coordinating with partners in camps where it has clinics to implement community education campaigns on cholera prevention, identification, and treatment – and clinic staff are being trained in cholera treatment and management.
International Medical Corps has extensive experience in cholera outbreak response, management, and prevention, with its most recent responses in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Iraq. Clean water, sanitation, and hygiene are also one of its top organizational priorities, with such programs in countries including Haiti, Somalia, Kenya, and the DRC.