October 22, 2010 Haiti
Update October 22, 2010
You have probably heard of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. It is true! It started in the Artibonite region (where some of our Staff came from) and already has spread to St. Marc and could reach Port-au-Prince by tomorrow because everyone is moving about.
What is cholera?
The World Health Organization defines cholera as “an extremely virulent disease. It affects both children and adults and can kill within hours”. Every year, this bacterial disease kills an estimated 100,000-120,000 people and 3-5 million others are infected.
It is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholera that heavily affects populations in developing countries, such as Haiti. It is waterborne and spreads quickly in areas where sanitation is poor and access to clean drinking water is lacking.
Poor sanitation, poor infrastructure in terms of water provision, is one of the main ways that cholera does spread. Normally it spreads when feces get back into the water system and people are forced to use water that hasn’t been cleaned. Any infected water and any foods washed in the water can cause an infection. Cholera is rarely spread directly from person to person.
Cholera is transmitted by water but also by food that has been in contact with unclean water contaminated by cholera bacteria. It causes serious diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration.
The disease is easily treatable by rehydration and antibiotics, but with a short incubation period, it can be fatal if not treated in time.
The disease is easy to cure. Up to 80% of cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts.
“Individuals can boil water, take a litre of it and mix it with a teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar and thereby create oral rehydration therapy,” according to Doctor Rishi Manchanda, a specialist in Public Health.
The Lower Artibonite region, the center of this outbreak, did not experience significant damage in the quake but has absorbed thousands of refugees from the capital of Port-au-Prince. The cholera outbreak is being blamed on the Artibonite River, an artery crossing Haiti’s rural center that thousands of people use for much of their daily activities from washing to cooking to bathing.
Crowded camps for displaced people or refugees are especially at risk of cholera outbreaks if minimum requirements of clean water and sanitation are not met. The latest flooding has just added to the misery of those struggling already to survive.
As of this morning, at least 140 people have died from this outbreak of cholera. President Rene Preval confirmed the outbreak and said the government was taking measures to try to stop the disease from spreading.
Victims range in age, but officials said the young and the elderly appeared to be the most affected. More than 1,500 people have been rushed to the hospital with severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration in the past few days. Medical facilities in Saint Marc have been overwhelmed, with hundreds of patients lying on blankets outside the hospital with drips in their arms for rehydration.
Outside a hospital where about 1,400 people were seeking treatment, an International reporter described the scene as “absolutely horrific”.
“There was total chaos,” he said. “There were streams of patients arriving all the time being driven in from remote villages in the region, with severe cases of dehydration, acute diarrhea and vomiting. We’re hearing of cases all around the region we are in now. It’s a rural region, the farming heartland of Haiti. There is a lot of poverty, high rates of unemployment, and there is very little drinking water available.”
The priority now is to prevent the disease from spreading into camps where hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by January’s devastating earthquake are being sheltered.
Aid groups have voiced concern for months that any outbreak of disease could spread rapidly in the country due to the unsanitary conditions in the makeshift camps for the homeless, with little access to clean water.
Cholera has not been seen in Haiti for about 100 years, so there is no experience among the general population or the medical community within Haiti on how to treat it. This is a big challenge in a number of ways. It is important to make sure people understand what they can do to protect themselves. The people must get rehydrated immediately. Many die quickly, and needlessly, because they have severe diarrhea and don’t replenish their dehydrated bodies.
Charles Henry Baker, a Presidential candidate, traveled to the stricken area and pleaded for help.
“The situation is terrible. Inside the hospital, they’re overcrowded. They’re not overcrowded, it’s beyond overcrowded,” he said. “They need some field hospitals put up as quickly as possible to be able to take in the amount of
people they have. They need doctors. They need nurses. People are all over, on the floor, the way it was after the 12th of January [earthquake]. We need help; we need quick help.”
We are so grateful that we have taught the Haitian people about healing and walking in health. We have seen so many miracles and healings! Jesus paid the price for Cholera when He died on the cross. He took upon Himself all of our sickness and all of our disease.
The Holy Spirit has been warning our church that there is coming something yet dreadful… We must always “BE ready” for there is no longer time to “GET ready!”
Pray with us that our people will continue to be strong in their faith and what they have seen in God’s Word… By His stripes we are HEALED!
P.S. While writing this, we received a call from Canada stating that their organization has been contacted to send 10,000 body bags as soon as possible.
Also, Proctor & Gamble is preparing a container, full of powder for hydration and water purification, to be distributed by Light Ministries to the most needy areas. Please pray that we have no problems getting it out of customs.
Please help us if you can with funds for transportation costs to distribute this powder. As you know, fuel costs are $9-$11 per gallon (UDS).