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UNICEF expands response to cholera outbreak in Haiti with supply distributions to communities and health centres

2010-10-24

ST. MARC, HAITI, 25 October, 2010 – UNICEF, alongside the Ministry of Health, DINEPA (Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement) and NGO partners, is working to increase its capacity to respond to the cholera outbreak in the Artibonite Department north of Port-au-Prince.

“We are well poised to respond because of our pre-positioning of supplies in the region,” said Frank Kashando, Field Coordinator for UNICEF in Artibonite. “But the rapid spread of this outbreak means that in order to respond appropriately and provide adequate assistance to communities and our partners on the ground, we will have to increase our current supplies.”

Kashando said that UNICEF is working to support communities where the outbreak has already taken hold, and is also providing supplies, such as soap, water disinfection tablets, and hygiene kits to help prevent the disease from spreading further. Distribution of supplies also includes information that will help communities apply best hygiene practices such as washing hands with soap before dealing with food and after using latrines.

In addition to what had been prepositioned before the outbreak, UNICEF has provided its partners in the Artibonite area with 2,500 adult hygiene kits, 50,000 water purification tablets, 2,500 collapsible jerry cans, 360,000 oral rehydration salts sachets to WASH partners. UNICEF has also prepositioned two diarrheal kits each of which are capable of treating 100 severe and 400 moderate cases of cholera to health partners.

In Port-au-Prince, UNICEF has provided 15 collapsible water tanks of 5,000 litres to the Spanish Red Cross, 500 kilos of granular chlorine for main water disinfection to DINEPA, 19,200 bars of soap, and 300,000 water purification tablets. DINEPA and sector partners are putting into place preparedness plans for Port-au-Prince which include large-scale chlorination of all water supplies and hygiene promotion.

UNICEF, along with other UN agencies and partners Action Contre la Faim (ACF), ACTED and Zanmi lasante, is supporting the Ministry of Health and DINEPA in providing medical and water sanitation supplies, including water purification chemicals, antibiotics, and oral rehydration salts. Logistical plans are underway to provide additional supplies.

On Sunday, at the request of the Ministry of Health, UNICEF continued its assessments of health centre capacities with visits to the communities of Verette and Gonaives north of Saint Marc. These assessments and the resulting provision of supplies will help hospitals and health centres more effectively respond to increasing patient numbers by putting in place treatment centres capable of isolating cholera infections to prevent the disease from contaminating other patients.

UNICEF’s response follows the confirmation earlier this week that cases of severe watery diarrhoea in this Caribbean country were in fact cholera. The outbreak has been centred on the Artibonite area, but new cases have been confirmed in the immediate vicinity of Port-au-Prince. 

About UNICEF 
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause.  UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

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.