-- Malnourished children, people with HIV and AIDS and the elderly are the most vulnerable, aid agency says
-- World Vision health workers remind families that hand washing can save lives, prevent spread of cholera
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the cholera outbreak continues to spread in the Artibonite region of Haiti, World Vision is increasing its response in affected areas, pre-positioning much-needed health supplies and preparing residents in its displacement camps in Port-au-Prince with critical, life-saving health and hygiene messages.
"While we can't be sure the direction this will take, we're preparing for challenging weeks ahead," said World Vision's Program Director in Port-au-Prince, Sabrina Pourmand Nolen. "Right now, the priority is to continue doing everything we can to stop the spread of this fast-moving disease."
On Wednesday, the international relief organization deployed a team of 12 nurses, a doctor, and about 50 community health workers to Mirebalais, a community approximately 50 miles southeast of St. Marc, where the group developed and executed a rapid awareness campaign at seven schools, reaching an estimated 3,000 students. They discussed how the illness is caught and what to do to avoid it. A team has also been sent to Mirebalais to supplement World Vision's relief efforts – assessing water sources, sanitation facilities and latrines, while simultaneously providing messaging around prevention and distribution of oral rehydration solution, soap, and water treatment tablets.
"Malnourished children, people living with HIV and AIDS and the elderly are the most vulnerable right now," Nolen said. "We are doing everything we can to let people know that simple measures like hand washing can save lives."
World Vision's health manager in Port-au-Prince, Dr. Reginald Lubin, noted that cholera is caused by a bacterial infection which can cause people to lose more than 30 liters of fluid in a single day.
"If this hits our camps, we are going to need a lot of support. It could spread very rapidly; we must be ready to react immediately. This is why we are stepping up prevention efforts, pre-positioning supplies and establishing contingency plans," Lubin said.
World Vision is conducting a mass distribution of soap in Port-au-Prince, as well as cleaning and desludging all of the latrines in camps where the organization is present. Staff are also continuing to check the chlorination levels on all water that they supply. Additional hand washing stations are being installed in camps, and World Vision is educating residents on the importance of hand washing and hygiene.
"We are coordinating with the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and other agencies to respond effectively and efficiently," Nolen said. "Quick identification and treatment is vital to containing the outbreak."
World Vision has identified sites within its camps to serve as quarantine areas in Port-au-Prince should the outbreak reach the city. Staff are being trained to identify the symptoms of cholera and are positioning trucks that will be able to take suspected cases to the hospital for treatment. World Vision is also working to make sure its staff are protected by providing them with face masks and gloves.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit, www.worldvision.org/press
SOURCE World Vision