For everything that has not improved since the earthquake, one positive thing had so far been no major disease outbreaks. Now:
“Government officials confirmed a cholera outbreak in the Département Artibonite. The Ministry of Health reported the worst-affected areas were Douin, Marchand Dessalines and areas around Saint-Marc, approximately 100 km north of Port-au-Prince. More than 1,500 people are reported to be sick. The diseased suffer from severe diarrhea, which leads to extreme and rapid dehydration, which led to death in at least 141 cases so far. The Artibonite River is likely to be the source for the outbreak, after recent heavy rains spurred its banks to overflow and flooded the area.”
Poor water and sanitation facilities is the best way for cholera to spread quickly, and this is definitely an issue, especially in the IDP camps. The government is preparing an information campaign on prevention. Medical NGOs are getting ready to set up Cholera Treatment Centers as soon as they receive the authorisation.
In the midst of all this activity, I do feel quite powerless. The office in Amsterdam is currently checking our stock on the specific products needed for cholera treatment, and contacting suppliers in case we need more. IDA will of course do its best to provide what is needed quickly, but we can’t do much before actually receiving orders from NGOs or the government.
While I am powerless in the face of pretty much all challenges here, this is in the health sector, so it feels closer.
An American who grew up in Haiti and is currently involved in reconstruction efforts told me that it was important for people/relief workers to stay focused on their specific tasks – not only does it allow them to work better by focusing their energy, but worrying about all the different problems is too heavy. It’s not that you shouldn’t consider what is going on around you and outside your own work, but constantly facing all of the suffering head-on is too much of the opposite. I think that was good advice, and think of it when I feel particularly powerless.