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At a glance: Haiti

In Haiti, UNICEF trains educators to mobilize communities against cholera

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2539/Marco Dormino
Chydena Laguerre Joseph uses illustrations to educate children and adults about cholera prevention.

By Benjamin Steinlechner

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti 9 December 2010 - Chydena Laguerre Joseph holds up a brightly colored cholera prevention poster in Wharf Jérémie, one of Port-au-Prince’s most overcrowded and poorest neighbourhoods. Gathered around her, a group of children wearing ragged clothes and shining smiles begins to sing a song she just taught them:

‘yon gode, dlo, savon – twa bagay nesese...’ (A cup, some water, and soap - three necessary things...)

Chydena, 29, is one of thirty community educators recently trained by UNICEF in social mobilization techniques to disseminate cholera prevention messages among camps and neighbourhoods in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince.

“This workshop taught me how to better communicate cholera messages,” explains Chydena. “As trainers we don’t use the same language with children and adults. This is why it is important for us to be able to adapt to different audiences.”

Preventing Cholera

The Port-au-Prince workshop - one of many being conducted by UNICEF throughout Haiti - is focused on finding innovative, interactive and engaging ways to better educate the public on cholera prevention. If put into practice, the simple messages of washing hands after going to the bathroom and teaching people how to react to the first signs of the disease, such as fever, diarrhoea, and vomiting, could save hundreds of lives.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2538/Marco Dormino
Children read cholera awareness and prevention brochures during a class in the impoverished Wharf Jérémie neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince.

Treating those infected with cholera is important, but even more impactful are the community mobilization activities that can prevent cholera from spreading in the first place. The disease continues to ravage Haiti, with over 2,000 deaths and more than 90,000 infected. As with most emergencies, the impact on children is the greatest.

“Cholera is one of the easiest diseases to prevent and treat. So it’s crucial that communities know how to recognize the disease early,” says Gallianne Palayret, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist. “This is why we are helping these educators with communication techniques that will help them pass the message in an effective way.”

Agents of change

“Children living in circumstances like these live very badly, they are always in contact with dirty water,” says Chydena. “There are no latrines and keeping up your hygiene is a daily challenge. It is important to protect them by teaching them the methods to prevent themselves against this disease.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2541/Marco Dormino
Children view illustrations on cholera awareness and prevention, during a class in the impoverished Wharf Jérémie neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince.

‘Yon gode, dlo, savon - twa bagay nesese...’ (A cup, some water, and soap - three necessary things...)

Chydena hopes that by learning this song, children will remember some of the warnings about the disease, and how the simple act of washing their hands can save lives. She’s also hoping that, like her, they too will become agents of change and mobilize others, including their families, to take the right precautions against cholera.

“Children love to sing and they have a great memory for songs,” says Chydena. “So songs are a natural way of transporting the message.”



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