With UNICEF support, Haiti kickstarts campaign to immunize about 1.7 million people against cholera
41 per cent of confirmed cholera cases are reported among children under 14.
PORT-AU-PRINCE/PANAMA/NEW YORK, 18 DECEMBER 2022 - With UNICEF’s help and amidst gang-related violence, Haiti has launched today a vaccination campaign to immunize over 1.64 million people against cholera this month in response to the recent outbreak.
“The deadly disease of cholera kills more and more people in Haiti. The oral vaccine can protect thousands of people from the disease. But vaccination teams cannot reach communities while bullets are flying, or they risk being kidnapped. Vaccinators put their lives at risk to save women’s and children’s lives while they must have broad access to do their job”, says Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti.
With the support of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Haiti received over 1,17 million oral cholera vaccine doses on 12 December and another 500,000 doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. Over 2,300 vaccination teams will be deployed in communities to give the oral drops to people and protect them from the deadly disease. UNICEF assists in distributing this first batch of vaccines against cholera by providing fuel, transportation, and equipment.
In less than three months, cholera claimed the lives of 300 people with over 1200 cases confirmed and nearly 15,000 suspect cases reported. Over 40 per cent of confirmed cases are reported among children under 14.
The target population are men, women and children over one year old, including pregnant women, and accounts for 97 per cent of the total population of five communes in Ouest and one in the Centre departments where more than 50 confirmed cholera cases had been reported when the country placed its request. Most population targeted by this cholera vaccination campaign live in Cite Soleil or Port-au-Prince where recurrent clashes between armed gangs continue to make casualties among women and children.
UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health dispatch the oral cholera vaccine doses across the West Department and from the national warehouse in Port-au-Prince to the commune of Mirebalais, Centre Department. With gangs blocking national roads, transporting the vaccines to selected communes is a dauting task, and alternative routes are often used, raising the costs and time of the dispatch.
UNICEF contributed to the provision of fuel to keep the cold room and the national vaccine depot of West Department operational. UNICEF also equips more than half of the vaccination teams with vaccine carriers to maintain the cholera vaccines at the right temperature.
UNICEF supports the management of biomedical waste, while making incinerators available and providing vaccination teams with garbage bags to reduce the risks of contamination.
Given the socio-political context prevailing in Haiti since social unrest erupted in September over petroleum price hikes, rumors and fake news are often conveyed on social media platforms that claim cholera does not really exist in the country. To trigger uptake of communities to the cholera vaccination, UNICEF has engaged 40 radio stations to air spots about the vaccination and implements social mobilization activities.
UNICEF calls upon all parties to refrain from the use of violence to ensure unrestricted access to vaccination teams and allow for populations to receive the oral vaccine drops that can protect them from cholera.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/lac/en.