MOBILIZING TO PREVENT CHOLERA
(ReliefWeb) - Source: CHF International
"I had heard something of this disease of cholera, but didn't have any information about it," says Nadine Charles, 20, who lives in Dufossé located in the outskirts of Gonaives a city in the northwest of Haiti. When her baby girl got sick she didn't know what it was. Her husband insisted that someone had put a voodoo curse on them and as he practiced the voodoo religion he performed rituals to remove the spell. But the girl died in the early hours of the morning and Nadine's only other child got sick as well. By the time they got the child to the hospital it was too late and the husband himself was showing symptoms of having cholera. He died the next day.
"We did not know," says Nadine who now is living with her husband's family.
CHF mobilizers have been trying to change that – reaching out to 15 communities around the Gonaives province and giving people vital information on cholera prevention and good hygiene practices. They have driven out in motorcycles in order to be able to get to the most inaccessible populations, going door-to-door, talking to families, community leaders, to people in groups or individually.
They have been able to reach up to now over 53,000 people and have handed out 12,000 cholera flyers with vital information on prevention, symptoms and treatment.
"I decided to sign up to be one of CHF's mobilizers," says Esther Metellus, 28, "because I want to save lives in my country." She says that all the communities have welcomed them and all have said that they have learned a lot from their intervention. "For example," says Esther, "the people told me that they didn't realize that they should wash their hands with running water rather than directly in the recipient."
"It is thanks to the work CHF is doing," says Jean Baptiste Exantus the Community Counselor (called CASEC in Haiti) for the 4th Section of Gonaives, "that many more people were not infected by cholera in our area." Already there had been 130 cases in his jurisdiction and 17 of those died of the epidemic.
The Casec was also very appreciative that CHF involved all levels of the community and its leaders. "The first thing the CHF team did was to contact us, coordinate with us and in-form us also about the disease." Counselor Exantus says that they themselves did their own assessment of the work CHF has done and found that the population in their zone was much more educated about the disease and on better hygiene methods.
Gonaives is in the Artibonite Department, from where the epidemic started and spread. It has been the hardest hit in the number of cases and deaths. Up to now, there have been 60,240 cases and 1,415 deaths due to cholera reported in Haiti. Of these, a majority of the cases have come from the Artibonite region.
"We and everyone in the community are very afraid of this disease," says Rose-Mireille Siméaus, 27, mother of a three-year old boy. "From when I was born I had never heard of this disease, this cholera, I had never ever seen such a thing in my life." Now, she has personally seen many in her community getting infected. CHF mobilizers arrived to give her all the necessary information. "Now that we are informed we will do everything possible to protect ourselves in order that we don't get infected by this dangerous disease. We have learned a lot of things we didn't know before."
The Casec of Dufossé, Romulère Metellus also confirms that the people in his zone knew nothing about the disease before. "We had a big problem because many people attributed this disease to some kind of evil spirit," he says disapprovingly. "So this is the best thing that could've been done at this time. As a community we would like to say 'Ayibobo' (Hallelujah) to CHF."