Rotarians respond to cholera outbreak in Haiti
The Rotary Club of Leogane, Haiti, posted this banner with cholera information in a rural community in November. Photo courtesy of Diana White
A deadly outbreak of cholera remains a top concern in Haiti as Rotarians assist with long-term recovery efforts.
The waterborne disease, which has spread to all areas of the country, has sickened more than 171,000 Haitians and killed more than 3,651, according to the Haitian health ministry.
Cholera bacteria are transmitted through contact with contaminated water or food and can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, and death from dehydration. Though the disease is easy to treat with adequate supplies of fresh water and medical attention, most Haitians lack both, says Guy Theodore, governor-elect of District 7020.
"We have a serious epidemic going on in Haiti," says Theodore, chair of the Haiti Task Force, established three years ago by the district to administer financial aid to the nation. "All 19 Rotary clubs in the country are dedicated to helping prevent the spread of the disease. Haitians need more education in preventive hygiene. Our clubs will focus on those needs."
District 7020 and the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, a donor advised fund set up by The Rotary Foundation, have committed US$200,000 for projects aimed at cholera prevention. Since the outbreak, Haitian Rotarians have used megaphones to spread the word about proper hygiene in local communities. They also have distributed hand sanitizer, soap, and water purification tablets, and posted banners with cholera information in villages.
Diana White, governor of District 7020, says Rotary is best suited to help with disease education and prevention.
"There are a lot of organizations in Haiti that are treating those affected by cholera. Challenges still remain in extremely poor and rural areas," she says. "Education is a critical service and is one that can be managed by any and all clubs that are willing to do so."
Theodore says these efforts have helped slow the rate of infection in some areas. At a medical clinic where he works in Pignon, the rate of cases dropped from 100 every week to 20 since the outbreak hit in October.