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UN appeals for funding as cholera outbreak worsens in Haiti

2011-11-16

UNICEF focuses on prevention for the most vulnerable

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2434/Dormino
Two children stand near dwellings surrounded by floo water from Hurricane Tomas, in the impoverished Raboto area of the city of Gonaïves, located in Haiti's cholera-stricken Artibonite Region.

By Benjamin Steinlechner

GONAÏVES, Haiti, 16 November 2010 – The death toll in Haiti's cholera epidemic has now climbed to some 900, with more cases reported in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other areas outside the Artibonite Region where the outbreak originated. In response to the worsening situation, the United Nations has issued a new appeal for $163 million in donor aid.

 

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More than 14,000 Haitians have been hospitalized for cholera to date. And now hospitals in the capital are seeing patients who show symptoms of the highly infectious, waterborne disease, whose spread was exacerbated by flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas last week.

"Some parts of the country are more affected than others," UNICEF Representative in Haiti François Gruloos-Ackermans told UNICEF Radio in a telephone interview today. "We at UNICEF are focused on making sure that we identify the more at-risk populations."

Prevention through communication

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Dormino
A Haitian Red Cross worker disinfects a classroom to prevent the spread of choldera in Gonaïves.

At a crowded marketplace in Gonaïves, located in northern Artibonite, women stopped bargaining for vegetables to listen to megaphones blaring the cholera-prevention message, "lave men nou" ("everybody wash your hands"). With cholera ravaging the region, getting the message out is critical. Teams of Haitian Red-Cross volunteers have fanned out across markets in the area to do just that.

"One of the most effective ways of prevention is communication," said Frank Kashando, UNICEF's Field Coordinator in Artibonite. "UNICEF has supplied the local Haitian Red Cross with 25 megaphones and 800 spare batteries to inform the population."

"The megaphones allow us to diffuse our messages much quicker," said Matthias Dornilma of the Haitian Red Cross, "but we also take time to talk to people individually, and show leaflets that demonstrate how to prevent cholera"

Schools targeted

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Dormino
Haitian Red Cross workers speaks to residents about proper hygiene and sanitation at a market place in Gonaïves, located in the Artibonite Region where the cholera outbreak began.

Haitian Red Cross volunteers are giving children lessons in handwashing and personal hygiene, as well.

"Schools are important," said Ms. Gruloos-Ackermans. When students are trained in prevention, she noted, "they are protecting themselves but they are also protecting their families – because as soon as they go back to their families, they will teach the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and the communi

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.