Haiti Cholera Outbreak: Report from the Field

Members of Direct Relief’s Emergency Response Team are in Haiti assessing needs and managing the response to the cholera outbreak there; they sent this report:

Here’s a quick update and some insights gleaned from conversations with people directly treating cholera patients. We are coordinating at the highest levels of government and providing needed medicines to Haiti’s health system. Here are a few highlights from the last two days:

Today we had a request from Mrs. Flaurine Joseph, Pharmacy Director for Haiti, to support the Northern Department (which includes Cap-Haitien, the second-largest city in the country and where cholera cases have been reported) with supplies to treat cholera. We told her that an air shipment landed today in Cap-Haitien and is being followed by two ocean containers. This shipment was sent in direct response to a request by the director of the Ministry of Health (MSPP) in the country’s Northern Department, Dr. Jasmin. Mrs. Joseph immediately called Dr. Jasmin to confirm that it had arrived and announced the news at a meeting of ministry officials and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

We met with medical officers who have been directly responding to the cholera outbreak, as well as Mrs. Joseph and Georges Dubuche of Management Sciences for Health. The consensus is that what we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. The population is mobile and many people don’t have access to clean drinking water. The 10,000 confirmed cases are in six of Haiti’s ten Departments.

Today we visited Medishare in Port-au-Prince, which now has four patients in a cholera tent in the back of the hospital. They have strict regulations about who can go in and out and the need to bleach your hands and feet upon exiting the tent. Hence the huge need for bleach in country.

There are roughly 20 Cholera Treatment Centers (CTCs) around the country that are being managed by the MSPP and NGOs. These are tents where cholera patients are placed (away from the normal patient population) on cholera beds and receive IV drips. We were told today that a patient can lose up to 15 liters of fluid a day and often require four IV bags at a time to replenish them. But if they are caught and treated early, they can be healthy within hours.

Everyone we’ve spoken to–doctors, nurses, pharmacists, MSPP–has confirmed that the most needed items are lactated ringers, normal saline, IV poles, oral rehydration solution, and bleach. These are the items we’ve been providing.

It seems that groups working on the ground are doing a great job of sharing resources and getting what’s needed where it needs to go.

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