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At a glance: Haiti

UNICEF prepares for a potential cholera outbreak in Port-au-Prince

© UNICEF Video
A motorbike DINEPA team tests the levels of chlorine at a water trucking distribution point in Port au Prince.

By Sabine Dolan

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 27 October 2010 – While efforts to contain the cholera epidemic are ongoing in the affected zones of the Artibonite region, UNICEF and its partners have been gearing up for a potential outbreak in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Access to safe water has been at the forefront of preparation efforts here and the large-scale chlorination of water sources has been intensified.

“Chlorination of water remains the most effective control measure for water borne bacterial diseases and levels are being increased two- to three-fold for water supplies trucked to displacement sites across earthquake-affected areas,” said Mark Henderson, Chief of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene section.

Chlorination and Hygiene are essential

UNICEF and DINEPA (Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement/National Department of Water and Sanitation Management) - a government regulatory authority that works on Haiti's water and sanitation system -  have been providing chlorine pool tester kits to facilitate the chlorination of wells and other main water outlets.  Meanwhile, motorbike DINEPA teams, responsible for testing the quality of water at water trucking distribution points, have been dispatched across the metropolitan area. So far they’ve tested over 150 water points with more than half showing a need for further chlorination.

© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Marco Dormino
Hygiene promotion is key, here a child washes her hands during an educational activity at a refugee camp in Port au Prince.

In addition, UNICEF and DINEPA have ordered AQUATABS Water Purification Tablets to be distributed to 1,000 private water kiosks, 300 public fountains and 300 hand pump locations. All in all, 12 million AQUATABS are planned to be distributed each week until the end of the epidemic.

Hygiene promotion is also high on the agenda to help protect children and their families living in vulnerable and unsanitary zones. Along with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and its partners have helped define key cholera messages; these are being used as part of cholera awareness and prevention campaigns which will be broadcast on radio and conducted in camps and other affected communities. UNICEF is currently in the process of training partners on cholera and general hygiene promotion.

Dealing with an outbreak

The health sector is also playing a vital role in this crisis, setting up different structures to help combat a possible outbreak. For anyone suffering from diarrhea, oral rehydration proximity stations will be providing care 24 hours a day. In addition, intermediary admittance centres will be operating within existing health structures or any other identified space, and cholera treatment centers will be available to those in need of hospitalization.

© UNICEF Video
Many of Haiti's slums and tent cities suffer from very poor sanitation.

Meanwhile, in Port-au-Prince’s overcrowded and unsanitary camps, concern about the cholera epidemic has been growing fiercely, with people anxiously calling hotlines to find out more about hand washing and other preventative measures.

At present, five cases of cholera have been confirmed in Port-au-Prince. However, each case involved individuals who had traveled through the Artibonite valley and were therefore not indicative of a spread of the epidemic since they do not represent a new source location of infection.



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