PORT-AU-PRINCE – “We are still coming across small villages where people are begging us to help stop this disease. There is not a single toilet or latrine in many of these rural villages. People are desperate to learn the basic hygiene measures that will keep their families safe,” said Paula Brennan, cholera response manager for Oxfam in Artibonite, Haiti.
“This national spread of this outbreak is a direct result of the abysmal sanitation infrastructure throughout Haiti that was a serious problem long before January’s earthquake. If all of us – the government of Haiti, aid agencies, donors – do not take this crucial opportunity to work together to truly ‘build back better,’ people will continue to die from preventable waterborne diseases,” said the country director for Oxfam in Haiti.
In response to the January 12 earthquake, Oxfam has provided 450,000 people with clean water, latrines and hygiene education to prevent the spread of disease, plastic sheeting for shelter and grants for small businesses to help people restore their incomes. With the outbreak of cholera outside of the earthquake-affected zone of Port-au-Prince, Oxfam is now running two simultaneous emergency response programs – one for earthquake victims, and one for people affected by cholera.
Oxfam’s most recent cholera response program, mounted over the weekend in northern Cap Haitien for 300,000 people, has temporarily ceased operation since Monday morning, due to violent protests that have blocked movement in the city. Oxfam staff are on standby to resume operations as soon as possible.
“The violence is delaying our cholera response in Cap Haitien,” said Oxfam spokesperson Julie Schindall. “We’re obviously frustrated by it and worried for the people that desperately need clean water. Treating and preventing cholera is straightforward, but it requires a fast response. We are now looking at a 48 delay in bringing people aid.
“The faster we’ll be able to do our work, the less likely the outbreak is likely to spread. It would not be surprising to see a rise in cases because of the delay.”
“Roads are blocked with protestors and burning tires, and we physically can’t get to our work sites, especially with trucks carrying crucial supplies like soap, water tablets or rehydration salts. Blocked roads means we can’t get out there and educate people about how to treat themselves at home for cholera. This is also keeping people from accessing health clinics or hospitals.”