Direct Relief is delivering urgently needed medical aid to its partners in Haiti responding to the fast-moving cholera outbreak. Partner health facilities and news reports have indicated that more than 140 people have already died in the few days since the outbreak began. While the outbreak is currently in the central plateau, about 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince, the fear is that cholera will spread quickly among the hundreds of thousands of people still living in camps after the January earthquake.
On Friday, October 22, Direct Relief is distributing 400 hygiene kits from its warehouse and sending them to the city of St. Marc in the affected Artibonite region to help control the spread of cholera.
Hospital Albert Schweitzer and Partners in Health in the Artibonite region and St. Damien Hospital in Port-au-Prince have requested materials from Direct Relief to treat cholera, a diarrheal disease, which can become fatal within hours as a patient becomes dehydrated. The materials include IV sets and solutions, oral rehydration solutions for adults and children, antibiotics, soap, bleach, masks, gloves, and water purification tablets.
With Direct Relief’s relationships and systems put in place in response to the January 2010 earthquake, the organization is ideally positioned to expedite this urgently needed aid. Hurricane modules, which contain such items as oral rehydration solution and other appropriate products, were pre-positioned in June 2010 with partner organizations, St. Damien Children’s Hospital, Partners in Health, and Justinian University Hospital in Cap-Haitien (north of the outbreak).
Seven ocean freight containers from Direct Relief are currently in port in Haiti, containing materials that can be used to help cholera patients. Direct Relief is also working to send urgently needed material by air freight to Haiti. The organization is coordinating efforts with the Haitian Ministry of Health and Georges Dubuche of Management Sciences for Health to expedite the response. Cholera spreads through compromised water and sanitation systems; it is believed that this outbreak originated near the Artibonite River. With more than 1,500 cases reported so far, the outbreak could reach tragic proportions if it hits the camps in Port-au-Prince.