Cholera Prevention in Haiti

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Today we left Jacmel to visit some of our projects in Bainet. As we left Jacmel town we drove across a river which luckily was quite low at the time. In the rainy season this will often become impassable. We had to wind up into the mountains before dropping down towards the coastal town of Bainet.

It’s a two-hour drive over very bumpy mountain roads but the beautiful views of tropical forest make up for any discomfort, especially as we descend towards Bainet and get the first views of the bay and the crystal clear turquoise waters below us.

Our first stop is at the cholera treatment unit, which is slightly outside the town due to the community’s fears about having it close to their houses. Cholera coordinator Daniel O Flynn tells me that the people here were initially very afraid of the clinics coming to their communities as they thought they would bring the disease – and death – to their doorstep. I’m pleased to say that this attitude is changing and the people are now largely supportive of the units. A hugely important part of the fight against cholera is making sure we get the message across to Haitian people that, with simple steps to improve hygiene, they can protect themselves against this deadly disease. We use many methods to get the message across, including local radio, door-to-door hygiene promotion and sessions in schools and health centres.

After leaving the clinic we visited a training session where newly recruited community health workers were undertaking a week-long training on basic health and nutrition including cholera prevention, before returning to their communities to start their vital work. For most people in this very rural part of Haiti the nearest health centre can be several hours’ walk away from their home, so bringing basic healthcare into the community in this way is vital.

Arriving back at the hotel in Jacmel in the late afternoon, I look out at the beautiful views of the sea and can’t help feeling it’s a shame that all we see and read in the news at home are stories of the suffering of the Haitian people – we don’t see the beauty that this country also has to offer.

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