ECHO Cholera Control Project
© UNICEF RD/ R.Piantini/2012
Water and Bleach against Cholera: Visit by ECHO Cholera Control Project
On January 31st, a delegation from the General Directorate of the European Commission Humanitarian Office (DG-ECHO), visited the Dominican Republic with the aim of evaluating the implementation of the Cholera Control Project, which they are co-funding with UNICEF in the provinces of Azua, San Juan and Elías Piña, which have been identified as having a high level of vulnerability and active cholera strains.
This project, coordinated by the Health and Education Ministries, has been implemented by Caritas Dominican Republic and the Mother-Child Pastoral Service since June 2011, when the cholera epidemic reached worrying levels in several provinces in the country.
The delegation was made up of Mr. Bernard Boigelot, from the ECHO Caribbean Regional Office, Jocelyn Lance, head of the ECHO Santo Domingo Office and Simon Horner. They were accompanied by representatives of the UNICEF and Caritas Dominican Republic country offices.
The project consists of two main components, one of which is infrastructure repair and rehabilitation of the water supply, sanitation and hygiene systems. The second component - education and training - involves the preparation and distribution of information materials about cholera control, and community training and support, as well as other awareness raising activities aimed at prevention.
To date, this support has benefited more than 60 schools, 6 care centres for children in conflict with the Law, and 12 childcare centres (shelters, nutritional centres, etc) in these three provinces in the southern region.
The visit began at the Los Ganaderos Nutritional Centre, in Azua province, where Andreina Méndez and Oretis Sánchez, health promoters for the Mother-Child Pastoral Service, provided explanations about the project implementation.
Oretis, who is in charge of the project at national level, explained the extent to which the donation of a water tank, a water pump and a hand-washing basin for the children who use the facility had benefited the Nutritional Centre. “Although we are only caring for 35 children at the moment, we are also in charge of accompanying local families, and when it’s all added up it means a lot of people are getting training on the theme of Cholera management and prevention”, said Oretis.
Andreina, who is in charge of the cholera control project in the province of Azua, then conducted a water test to find out the chlorine concentration level, showing great skill in the process.
Both promoters accompanied the ECHO delegation to the home of one of the more than ten thousand families who benefit from the project, where the head of household, Andreina Pérez, shared her experience of receiving training in hygiene measures for controlling cholera in her home. “Now I know, and everyone in this house also knows, water and bleach against cholera, it’s not difficult… now cholera will never come into this house!” she declared with confidence.
The group ended their visit to Azua province with a visit to the Los Jovillos School, where a group of children welcomed them with an upbeat song they had composed for the occasion. There, the director, Mercedes Dilania Sención, presented all that had been achieved as a result of the awareness raising work with the teaching community in cholera prevention and management. In one of the school’s classrooms, representatives of several community organisations that are involved in the project shared their experiences and achievements.
Dr. Luisa Ramírez, an epidemiologist from the Provincial Health Board, said she was very happy because in the project impact region “we are celebrating eight cholera-free weeks, which should fill us with pride, because it’s an achievement for us all… and it should serve to encourage us to go on working, so that this task should not just be one single project in our lives, but a life project, so that it spreads like a bacteria, not one that makes us ill, but one that heals us”, concluded Dr. Ramírez.
It was getting late, and to end the day, the group went to the Najayo Integrated Care Centre for Adolescents in Conflict with the Law, in the province of San Cristóbal. Centre Director Ramona Coronado was waiting for us and took us on a tour of the cells, where thanks to the project, showers and basins with running waters have been installed, to ensure the inmates’ hygiene, located in small cells that hold up to 30 adolescents.
Seven young people welcomed the delegation and spoke about their experience of being trained in cholera prevention and control. Many of them had heard the disease mentioned on the news, but now they say they know how to prevent and manage it. Wander, who is in charge of his group said “I am the cell controller, and I keep everyone in line, anyone who doesn’t keep it clean gets punished and has to clean up the whole cell himself, we’re not going to get sick because of one person,” he declared energetically.
The group thanked the ECHO visitors for their support for the project at the Centre. The director said that the installation of water in the cells had significantly improved the inmates’ quality of life. “Before they had to shower or wash their hands in the bathrooms, and they had to wait for their turn, now they keep better personal hygiene and that of their cells”. She added that this measure had contributed to improving hygiene in the facility, as well as the adolescents’ morale and behaviour.
The visit ended satisfactorily, the project delivered the expected results: the community has been empowered to take responsibility for preventing and controlling cholera in the three provinces.