World Concern is responding to the rapid spread of cholera through Haiti with a plan to help protect 250,000 people there by teaching them how to prevent the illness and providing them with the means to do so. We’re also giving them tools and information in case someone in their family becomes sick.
But with the death toll at nearly 800, and 1,000 more people becoming sick each day, some may wonder why we’re not focusing our effort on helping the sick and dying.
Aid agencies that specialize in medical care are doing the hands on work of treating sick patients. World Concern has worked in Haiti for more than 30 years, and we’ve learned a lot in that time. Through long-term relationships in the regions where we work, one thing we’ve learned is how to get vital information in the hands of people quickly and efficiently. And this is what those who are still healthy need right now.
An article on AOL News titled Sudden Death by Cholera a Mystery to Haitians reveals the dramatic lack of information people in Haiti have about how disease is spread and prevented. Some people, the article says, believe cholera is caused by evil. Others believe it is a conspiracy by the government. It’s no secret superstition is alive and well in Haiti, and something this fast-moving and deadly can lead people to jump to conclusions.
“I don’t think it’s a virus. I’ve never met a rich person who caught it. We want the government to say something about it, because I don’t think it came like they say. It’s in the air,” one woman was quoted as saying in the article. It’s hard for us, living in the developed world, to imagine not having basic health and hygiene knowledge. But there are many parts of the world, including Haiti, where millions of people simply don’t understand how disease spreads.
The truth is that cholera is spread only by oral ingestion of the bacteria via coming in contact with vomit, feces, or water contaminated with those things. Hand washing, good hygiene, proper sanitation and avoiding contaminated water (and foods prepared with or washed in it), can prevent the spread of the disease. And if someone does get sick, it is treatable; rapid rehydration can save their life.
This is what people in Haiti need to know. And we’re working to get that information to them quickly. The more they know, the better they can protect their families.
In addition to prevention education, we’re also distributing cholera health kits with oral rehydration solution packets, water purification tablets, and soap to people.
The UN warns that more than 200,000 people could get sick with cholera in Haiti before the epidemic is over. We’re working to reduce that number as much as we possibly can.