Severe rain storms throughout Haiti and the Caribbean during the first weeks of June kicked off what is anticipated to be an extremely active hurricane season. The heavy rains caused flash flooding and mudslides killing 23 people and served as a reminder how fragile Haiti’s healthcare system remains 18 months after the powerful earthquake devastated its capital.
This is the first major rainfall of the Atlantic hurricane season and there is concern about the country’s ability to respond as the people of Haiti continue their fight against an eight-month-old cholera outbreak that has taxed an already over burdened healthcare system and taken the lives of 5,400 people. Since 2007, Direct Relief has worked to strengthen Haiti’s major hospital referral centers each hurricane season by providing prepositioned modules of medications and supplies in three strategic locations across the country that can be used to treat 5,000 people for one month. This program gives healthcare providers the ability to immediately respond to people’s medical needs created by storms and flooding by having the right medications and supplies on hand and ready to use, thereby eliminating the lag time associated with transporting aid into the country after a storm has struck.
Since rainy season began in the beginning of May, the numbers of cholera cases in Haiti have been steadily increasing. The number of weekly hospitalizations nationwide has increased from an average of 1,700 to 2,600 people. In Port-au-Prince alone, there have been nearly 2,000 cases and 13 deaths reported in the last six weeks. This is in part due to the fact that a large number of the cholera treatment centers that were temporarily set up to treat these patients in isolation shut down earlier this year. However, the centers are now beginning to reopen, and as of June 3 there are a reported 250 treatment centers open throughout the country.
Direct Relief has reached out to healthcare partners in affected areas that may have a potential need for emergency support and has already provided over $250,000 worth of medications, IV fluids, and oral rehydration therapy to partners such as GHESKIO, Partners in Health, and Hospital Albert Schweitzer. Additionally, seven pallets of life-saving IV therapy are currently en route to Haiti, traveling on board the USS Comfort—a Navy vessel carrying emergency medical supplies to Haiti in partnership with Project Handclasp. Additional medicine and supplies in California- and Haiti-based warehouses have been made available and Direct Relief stands ready and able to respond.
Since the earthquake in January 2010, Direct Relief has dispatched over 700 tons in aid consignments to Haiti and $57 million (wholesale) in aid has been sent to care for people affected by the disaster.