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UNICEF positions emergency supplies for tropical storm as cholera outbreak continues in Haiti

2010-11-02

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, 3 November 2010 – UNICEF is rushing to ensure adequate emergency supplies in preparation for a severe tropical storm, as it works with UN and NGO partners to support the Government of Haiti’s response to the recent cholera outbreak.

“UNICEF staff have been working with our partners around the clock to help address and contain the cholera outbreak,” said Ms Francoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Now, the potential landfall of this tropical storm endangers the work completed to date and poses a new threat of the water-borne cholera disease being spread by inland flooding.”

“This latest threat comes as the country is struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake that struck last January,” Ms Gruloos-Ackermans added.

UNICEF is working in close partnership with WHO, WFP and OCHA to coordinate this international response, particularly in light of the fact that in the combination of cholera, a tropical storm, and the aftermath of the January earthquake threaten to create the ideal conditions for an emergency of nation-wide proportions. A priority will be on safeguarding and reducing impacts on children and mothers.

UNICEF is also coordinating with its NGO partners throughout Haiti in responding both to the cholera outbreak and preparing for the forecasted arrival of tropical storm. Coordination with WHO-OPS is underway with the Ministry of Health for the development of the cholera multi-sectoral response plan.

According to information released today by the Haitian Ministry of Health, there have been 442 deaths and 6,742 hospitalizations attributed to cholera in numerous locations throughout the country, suggesting that the disease continues to spread rapidly.

Special emphasis for the cholera response has been on informing communities and families about the preventative actions they can take to protect themselves from cholera. Community mobilizers are sharing health and sanitation-related information with residents as they distribute UNICEF-supplied oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets. Patients and their families being treated at health care facilities are also receiving preventative information.

UNICEF is focusing supply distribution efforts in areas southwest of Port-au-Prince with the distribution of medical, nutrition, and sanitation stocks. Tropical storm contingency supplies are being prepositioned in communities throughout Haiti, including areas not directly affected by the cholera outbreak. These supplies include water purification kits, tarpaulins, oral rehydration salts, jerrycans, water purification tablets, and zinc tablets, which reduce the effects of diarrhoea.

UNICEF is also prepositioning additional health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, including essential drugs, therapeutic foods, buckets, soap, tarpaulins, water bladders, and chlorine purification powder, for Grande Anse, South and Southeast departments of this Caribbean nation, areas which risk being isolated due to heavy rain.

These emergency supplies are in addition to already prepositioned storm response stocks that have been depleted as a result of the unanticipated outbreak of cholera in the Artibonite region north of the capital.

Pre-positioned stocks, however, may not be sufficient. Urgently needed are additional water, hygiene, and sanitation supplies. UNICEF Haiti is sourcing many of its stocks directly from suppliers worldwide.

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.