The Mother-Child Pastoral Service joins the fight against cholera
Santo Domingo.- In August 2010 a cholera outbreak was declared in Haiti, after the catastrophic earthquake devastated the country at the beginning of that same year. Several months later the first cases of cholera were reported on Dominican soil.
Since then, UNICEF together with key allies in the areas of humanitarian aid and health, has been supporting the Dominican government in the coordination of diverse sanitary actions aimed at preventing and controlling the cholera epidemic in the Dominican Republic.
One example that has resulted from these alliances is the “Cholera Control in the Dominican Republic” project, which was designed by UNICEF and has been implemented with the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) since mid-2011. The project involves a range of initiatives and activities coordinated with government entities like the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Prosecutors Office, as well as non-governmental organisations like the Mother-Child Pastoral Service and Caritas Dominicana.
A successful initiative that is worth highlighting is the community training on cholera prevention and control, which is being carried out in coordination with the Mother-Child Pastoral service, using the structure and mobilisation capacity established by the Pastoral’s Health Advisors Network in several marginalised areas across the country.
Following on from this agreement with UNICEF and ECHO, the Pastoral service has trained a group of 551 volunteers and health advisors, and has added three special home visits to its regular mother-child health advisor plan to advise families on cholera care and prevention measures.
In the case of the marginalised neighbourhoods covered by this initiative in the National District, 236 volunteers and health advisors have been trained in controlling the epidemic at household level. Through the Advisory network, to date 7,645 families have been visited in neighbourhoods like Capotillo, La Ciénaga, Guachupita and Los Guandules.
“The process has been very interesting, the community has responded and supported the advisors in their work. There have even been some families we haven’t been able to visit and they asked us, “when will you visit us?” says Ana Santana, Operational coordinator of the Mother-Child Pastoral Network, during a monitoring visit made to the neighbourhood of La Ciénaga.
In La Ciénaga the families are conscious of the value of receiving timely information about cholera prevention. On this subject, Brunilda, one of 70 health advisors who were trained to visit 2,450 families in this community, tells how Clara’s family “was saved from being infected with cholera”, while two of her neighbours, who still hadn’t received the information, were affected.
“It’s sad to see how cholera has entered so many houses in the community, I wish there were more of us, so that no one is not left out (…) I personally helped take two people we took out of the house next door who were half-dead to the hospital emergency ward” – referring to a house next door to the one she was visiting at the time.
The Mother-Child Pastoral Service, with technical support from UNICEF, is coordinating accompaniment in mother-child health through its health advisory network in all the country’s regions. As well as Santo Domingo in neighbourhoods like Herrera, Los Alcarrizos, Guarícano, Capotillo, La Ciénaga, Guachupita, Los Gandules and Villa Duarte, it covers in the south: Azua, San Juan, Elías Piña, Barahona and San Cristóbal. In the Cibao region: Dajabón, Loma de Cabrera, Valverde, Restauración, Santiago, La Vega and Bonao. In the east: San Pedro de Macorís, Hato Mayor and Quisqueya and Consuelo sugar mills.
“I love this work very much, I identify with it a lot. Knowing you can help these mothers, and then hearing their testimonies is very moving. This is why I keep on working for the Pastoral service, and wherever I go I talk about the work we’re doing!” says Ana, proud of the work that she does for the Pastoral service, coordinating the work of more than 467 health advisors who currently report to the Pastoral service at a national level.
Ana Santana told us that the Pastoral service plans to continue its expansion, starting groups in the Los Tres Brazos neighbourhood in the capital soon, as well as in Puerto Plata. The expansion process aims to cover the entire national territory.
“I’m happy with the results we have obtained, although one could think that its a small number in relation to the nine million inhabitants of the country (…) But we, from the Pastoral service, think that it is a lot, because we’re working in all the regions of the country, with families that we have accompanied for more than six years, up till now we don’t know of any other institution doing this type of work, that is the value of our work”, says Ana, confirming that the key to the Pastoral service’s intervention is sustained in the monitoring of beneficiary families by people from the community who stay in the area and exercise leadership in promotion and control activities for mothers and children, and now, in prevention and control of cholera.