Potential cholera catastrophe in Haiti threatens thousands of children, warns Save the Children
As the death toll in Haiti from Hurricane Mathew continues to mount by the hour, Save the Children has joined the ministry of health, other major humanitarian aid organizations and UN agencies in calling for an expedited response to the disaster, including providing immediate relief supplies to head off a catastrophic outbreak of cholera.
“Right now our biggest concern is cholera, a deadly and highly infectious disease. The number of cases is increasing with every new report,” said Dr. Unni Krishnan, director of Save the Children’s Emergency Health Unit in Haiti. “Flooding and contaminated water caused by the storm pose a huge threat to survivors including thousands of children. Clean water and medicine delivered to the hardest hit areas in the next 24 to 48 hours is a key priority.
“Quick decisions and strong leadership can make or break relief operations. Right now, one million people need urgent humanitarian assistance. Life-saving measures such as medical aid, clean water and appropriate information should remain the priority at this stage,” added Krishnan.
Save the Children health workers have been responding to cholera outbreaks in Haiti since 2010, following a massive earthquake, by training more than 200 health workers and reaching out to more than 17,000 residents. Krishnan noted that the impact of Hurricane Mathew now poses a huge additional threat to cholera reduction efforts.
Save the Children is also concerned about an estimated 130,000 Haitian children out of school. Early estimates are that 50 percent of the 131 schools which Save the Children supports in Sud, Grand’ Anse and Port au Prince have been damaged.
“It is imperative that children return to school as soon as possible,” said Kevin Novotny, Save the Children’s country director in Haiti. “Being in school gives children a sense of normalcy and a feeling of security that is missing during disasters,” he said, adding that Save the Children would be setting up child friendly spaces, with trained personnel, so children have a place to be safe while their parents start the recovery process.
For interviews with Dr. Unni Krishnan and Kevin Novotny please contact Kyle Degraw <Kyle.Degraw@savethechildren.org>