Race against time to prevent spread of waterborne diseases in hurricane-hit areas as rainy season starts in Haiti

08 October 2016


PORT-AU-PRINCE/NEW YORK, 8 October 2016 – With the start of the rainy season, and as the death toll from Hurricane Matthew continues to rise, UNICEF is sounding the alarm on the threat of waterborne diseases to children living in the worst-affected areas.

“Overflowing rivers, stagnant waters, and animal and human corpses are perfect breeding grounds for waterborne diseases,” said Marc Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Every day that goes by increases the threat of cholera. We are in a race against time to get to these children before diseases do.”

Even before the hurricane, only 1 in 3 people in Haiti had access to proper latrines and less than 3 in 5 had access to safe water. In rural areas, these rates go down to 1 in 4 for sanitation and 1 in 2 for water.

Diarrhea is one of the main killers of children under-five in the country.   

Haiti has one of the highest incidence rates of cholera in the world. Almost 10,000 people have died from the disease since 2010 and more than 27,000 suspected cases have been reported so far this year, an estimated 1 in 3 of them children.

Since the outbreak in 2010, in partnership with the Haitian government and various partners, UNICEF has been fighting waterborne diseases including cholera by improving access to water, sanitation and health services for Haitian children and their families, while promoting rapid response to cholera cases.

In particular, since 2010, UNICEF has established or maintained 1,270 oral rehydration points and 149 cholera treatment units in high-risk areas where nearly 140,000 suspected cases were treated. In June and July of this year alone, UNICEF responded to more than 1,000 cholera alerts in all 10 departments of the country, benefiting about 8,000 households.

With the hurricane’s devastating impact on an already fragile system, UNICEF will continue to scale up its cholera response and address the emerging water and sanitation needs. Acquiring water purification tablets, treating collective water sources, and setting up latrines in temporary shelters and informal settlements are key components of the UNICEF immediate response. 

In addition to water treatment supplies pre-positioned before the hurricane hit, a first truck with water-treatment tablets and water bladders arrived to Les Cayes on Thursday and six water trucks are on their way to Les Cayes and Jeremie today. In addition, a water bladder was made available for the hospital of Les Cayes and more water storage containers are on their way to the affected areas to be used in shelters housing displaced families.

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