UN health teams in Haiti respond to cholera outbreaks, prevent possible epidemic
PORT AU PRINCE - With scattered outbreaks of cholera reported in the wake of the devastation wrecked by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the United Nations health agency has deployed field teams in the country to respond to the health situation and to prevent it from reaching epidemic proportions.
According to a news release issued on Thursday by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), WHO and Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) disaster, health and logistic experts have been deployed to support the government's efforts against cholera outbreaks from the agencies’ offices in Washington DC, Haiti and a number of other locations.
“We are seriously concerned about an epidemic of cholera, and that’s why the ministry of health, with our assistance, is taking all measures possible to avoid that happening,” said Jean Luc Poncelet, PAHO/WHO representative in Haiti, adding: “Before the hurricane, [Haiti] had serious problems of access to health, water and sanitation, and cases of cholera. So when the water supply is interrupted, cholera will increase.”
According to WHO, more than 1.3 million Haitians have been affected by the hurricane and it is estimated that 80 percent of houses have lost their roofs and most of the country’s hospitals have suffered major damages – at least 100 health facilities are no longer functioning.
In response, the health agencies have dispatched shipments of cholera kits containing oral rehydration solutions, catheters and water chlorination treatments to attend patients with acute diarrhoea and cholera, the release noted.
It further said that, to date, multinational experts teams have been deployed to Jérémie and Les Cayes, in the island’s southwest as well as in capital Port-au-Prince to support humanitarian operations and restore the capacity of health services and systems.
PAHO is also working with the ministry of health to increase the availability of medicines and medical supplies and cooperating in the organization and planning of the health response to possible outbreaks, Poncelet added.
Other countries too have stepped in and are providing supplies to assist with the situation on the ground. On Wednesday, a shipment with 69 tonnes of supplies arrived on a French cargo aircraft, which included two water purification stations, for emergency situations, six units for basic sanitation and hygiene, 13 tons of medical and first aid supplies, and cholera treatment kits.
A Dutch ship arrived in Haiti with supplies and experts to rehabilitate hospitals, and shipments of donations from Colombia and the Dominican Republic, among others, have arrived on the island.