Haiti: Working to prevent an epidemic's spread

As the cholera epidemic continues in Haiti’s northern and central regions, a primary objective is to ensure treatment for affected communities dispersed throughout these areas.  With Hurricane Tomas having moved past Haiti, MSF medical teams will be able to expand their support and activities.

As of now, MSF has treated more than 6,400 patients suffering from acute diarrhea, including a large proportion suffering from severe dehydration, symptoms typical of cholera.

MSF is supporting two Haitian Ministry of Health hospitals in the Artibonite Region, where the cholera outbreak originated. Medical teams are working in the main hospitals in St. Marc and Petite Riviere.  Relevant medical supplies, such as intravenous fluids, catheters, and oral rehydration solution, as well as chlorine for disinfection, are also being provided.  But it is outside more populated areas such as these where assistance is especially needed.

“Outside of the larger population centers, it is critical that smaller, dispersed communities are able to access treatment,” said Kate ALBERTI, an epidemiologist with Epicentre, MSF’s epidemiological research arm, who is currently in Haiti.   "We are very concerned about the spread of the epidemic in rural areas, where transport to existing health structures is difficult.  Treatment centers need to be established and existing ones further supported in order to ensure rapid access to treatment.”

To bolster health clinics in some of the more outlying areas in the north and center of the country—in places such as Gros Morne—MSF is supplying IV solution, oral rehydration salts, IV sets, and hygiene materials.  Supplies have also been provided to the hospital in the town of Port de Paix in the country’s far north.

MSF is preparing cholera treatment centers in Gonaives and Bassin Bleu.  

Prepared in Port-au-Prince
At MSF’s own four facilities in the capital, Port-au-Prince, teams are prepared to treat people presenting with suspected cholera, with more than 300 beds already set aside for treatment in cholera treatment centers.  Up to 850 beds will be available soon, should the outbreak spread.  A few dozen people suffering from severe diarrhea have been treated over the last days at MSF facilities in the city.  

Two Haitian Ministry of Health Hospitals in Port-au-Prince are also receiving support from MSF.

A 20-bed CTC has also been set up in Leogane, where MSF already runs a hospital.

In addition to MSF’s 3,000 staff members working in Haiti, 75 international staff and more than 400 national staff are detailed to cholera intervention activities.