Haitians beating cholera

11/01/2013

Clean water and hygiene are critical to beat diseases like cholera in Haiti

When a cholera outbreak swept across Haiti and claimed thousands of lives, the need for health education and basic water and sanitation infrastructure became starker than ever.
 
To date, the disease has taken the lives of more than 7,700 people across the country and the World Health Organisation estimates there could be 120,000 new cases this year.
 
With support from Tearfund partners, we reached 120,000 adults and children in three provinces, raising awareness of the disease and providing water purification products.
 
Health workers from the King’s Hospital, a partner in Port-au-Prince, also taught people the importance of hand washing and have successfully encouraged schools to be more proactive in managing waste.
 
Healthier
 
Pastors with local churches, like the Mission Eglise de Dieu de la Grace Triomphant, have played their part too, with short sessions after church services passing on health education messages received from King’s Hospital.
 
In communities high in the mountains of Leogane, Tearfund used its network of schools, churches, community-based organisations and children’s clubs to teach the importance of good hygiene.
 
As part of our wider earthquake response programme, Tearfund built permanent latrines at 40 schools and installed rainwater harvesting systems with hand washing facilities.
 
More than 250 bio-sand water filters were also produced by local masons and delivered to 70 rural schools. Now children have a greater likelihood of staying healthy while the chance of getting cholera and other water-borne diseases is drastically lowered.
 
Sabrina Pierre-Louis Desgrace, school director at Académie Evangélique St Etienne, said, ‘Something as simple as washing hands can protect so many. A simple gesture can save a life.’
 
Her school is now one of many that conducts hygiene promotion training on why using clean water is important, encouraging children to continue using clean water in the future to protect them and their families from disease. 
 
Fewer cholera cases
 
'It is not just good to tell students to treat water, we have to share why it is important to treat water with both children and parents so that they continue this practice at school and at home,’ Sabrina said.
 
Nelson Espere, school director of the Ecole Nouvelle Vie de Demier, agreed:  ‘We all now treat our water and wash our hands. Cases of cholera went down in our community and everyone practises what they have learnt.’
 
Shilove Paul, aged nine, who attends a school near Leogane, said, ‘We treat water and we know to stop cholera we must wash our hands.’
 
Read more on Tearfund's work in Haiti.