Wesley Laîné and Jeremy Mak
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A deadly cholera outbreak has erupted across Haiti’s Artibonite Department, claiming at least 150 lives and sickening more than 1,500 others. The first registered cholera epidemic in Haiti in decades is the worst public health catastrophe since the January 12 earthquake.
Waterborne in nature, cholera is spreading primarily from ingesting water contaminated with the Vibrio cholerae bacterium, usually carried in human feces. Symptoms include severe dehydration, diarrhea, intense abdominal pains, and fever.
Limited pre-existing water and sanitation infrastructure, poor hygiene conditions, and overcrowding due to an influx of tens of thousands of Haitians displaced after the January quake has led to the cholera crisis, which now threatens to spread to other parts of the country. (Cholera cases have also been documented in La Gonâve, Arcahaie, and the Croix-des-Bouquet area of Port-au-Prince, albeit in lower numbers).
In response to the outbreak, International Action has dispatched its team to Saint-Marc, a coastal town badly ravaged by a wave of cholera cases. The nonprofit has been focusing on eliminating waterborne diseases in Haiti since 2006. Approached by the Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et Assainissement—DINEPA, the Haitian water agency, to intervene in this crisis—International Action is installing innovative chlorinators on two of Saint-Marc’s largest water reservoirs and public water stations.
These chlorinators will protect local Haitians previously exposed to waterborne illnesses like typhoid and chronic diarrhea. Pre-set levels of chlorine are slowly dissolved into the water, effectively eliminating all disease-causing bacteria, including those responsible for cholera. Chlorine residuals in the water continue killing germs up to 48 hours after it is dispensed to locals’ water buckets.
International Action’s lifesaving chlorination technology is safe and easy to maintain and requires no electricity. The chlorinators operate on the water’s own gravity flow, so no additional equipment is necessary. Each chlorinator can easily disinfect water for more than 10,000 people and takes 1-2 hours to install on a pre-existing reservoir or water tank.
International Action is on high alert during this critical time. It is offering its chlorinators and chlorine tablets, readily available at its Port-au-Prince warehouse, to any entity that needs them at no cost. Currently, the organization is providing clean water to over 421,500 people at 46 public water stations, orphanages, hospitals, and schools throughout Haiti. It aims to reach 2.5 million Haitians with clean water by 2013.
International Action believes that clean water is a fundamental right. As such, it is committed to helping the impoverished gain access to this basic right. Please visit www.HaitiWater.Org or email Info@HaitiWater.Org for more information on International Action’s Campaign for Clean Water in Haiti.