Cholera In Haiti: MSF Calling On All Actors To Step Up Response

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Emily Linendoll
Press Officer
Direct: 212-763-5764
Mobile: 646-206-9387
E-mail: emily.linendoll@msf.org

Cholera In Haiti: MSF Calling On All Actors To Step Up Response

While Cholera Spreads, Slow Deployment of Relief is Major Concern

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Critical shortfalls in the deployment of well-established measures to
contain cholera epidemics are undermining efforts to stem the ongoing
cholera outbreak in Haiti, said the international medical humanitarian
organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
today.

Despite the huge presence of international organizations in Haiti, the
cholera response has to date been inadequate in meeting the needs of the
population. According to national authorities, the epidemic has already
caused more than 1,100 deaths and sickened at least 20,000 people
nationwide.

“MSF is calling on all groups and agencies present in Haiti to step up
the size and speed of their efforts to ensure an effective response to
the needs of people at risk of cholera infection,” said Stefano Zannini,
MSF head of mission in Haiti. “More actors are needed to treat the sick
and implement preventative actions, especially as cases increase
dramatically across the country. There is no time left for meetings and
debate – the time for action is now.”

The following actions must be prioritized:

  • Reassuring a population frightened by a disease that is completely
    unknown in the country, including by publicly communicating the low risk
    and positive benefits of having properly-run cholera treatment centers
    in close proximity to communities;
  • Providing safe, chlorinated water to affected and at-risk communities
    nationwide, in addition to blanket distributions of soap;
  • Building latrines and safely removing waste on a regular basis;
  • Ensuring waste management and removal at medical facilities, in order to prevent contamination;
  • Establishing waste disposal sites close to urban areas in appropriate and controlled environments;
  • Establishing adequate oral rehydration points in areas where cholera cases are appearing;
  • Maintaining a safe and efficient network for referral of severe cases to cholera treatment centers;
  • Ensuring safe removal and burial of dead bodies.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, MSF has set up more than twenty
cholera treatment facilities throughout the capital, Port-au-Prince, in
the Artibonite region, and in the north of Haiti. MSF teams working
around the clock treated more than 16,500 people from October 22 to
November 14. Over 240 tons of medical and logistical supplies have been
brought into the country and MSF has more than 1,000 Haitian staff
dedicated to cholera treatment, working alongside 150 international
staff.

“Cholera is an easily preventable disease,” said Caroline Seguin, MSF
emergency medical coordinator. “It may be new to Haiti, but the ways to
prevent and treat it are long established. Without an immediate scale up
of necessary measures by international agencies and the government of
Haiti, we alone cannot contain this outbreak.”

In Port-au-Prince, the number of people seeking treatment at numerous
MSF-run and MSF-supported medical structures jumped from 350 for the
week ending November 7, to 2,250 cases for the week ending November 14.
In the north of the country, MSF medical structures logged 280 cases
during the week ending November 7, but that number jumped to 1,200 cases
for the week ending November 14.

MSF has more than 3,000 Haitian and international medical and
non-medical staff providing assistance to the population through its
other ongoing programs. They run seven free of charge, secondary-level
care hospitals and support two Ministry of Health structures in
Port-au-Prince, accounting for nearly 1,000 hospital beds in the capital
city.Outside the capital, MSF supports Ministry of Health hospital in
the city of Jacmel with nearly 80 beds of patient capacity. In Leogane,
MSF has been running a private emergency hospital since January and has
replaced it with a 120-bed container hospital in September.

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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

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