Haiti: taking precautions against a new flare-up of cholera

05-05-2011 Operational Update

The cholera epidemic that has been ravaging the population of Haiti since October is subsiding at last. According to government figures, three persons are dying a day as opposed to 10 a day in January. Despite this improvement, the ICRC fears a resurgence of the disease. It is continuing to promote preventive action, particularly in places of detention and the impoverished neighbourhoods of Cité Soleil and Martissant. The following is a summary of the ICRC's work in Haiti in January through March.

Detainee-welfare activities

Delegates made repeated visits to people being held in regular places of detention and transit facilities in order to verify that they were being treated humanely.

The ICRC worked together with the detaining authorities to improve conditions, and supported their efforts to combat the cholera epidemic.

In the first three months of the year, delegates visited over 4,000 people held in 17 places of detention.


  • The ICRC treated 275 detainees for cholera. Six eventually died.
  • To ensure adequate treatment and follow-up of cholera cases in five places of detention particularly hard hit by the epidemic, the organization temporarily hired extra nurses locally to build up its medical capacity.
  • Delegates continued to show detainees the hygiene practices best suited to protecting them from cholera.
  • The ICRC regularly distributed medicines and other anti-cholera supplies in the places of detention affected.

Water and sanitation

In order to help prevent cholera, the ICRC regularly delivered hygiene and disinfection supplies to all places of detention visited by it. Depending on needs, it also provided them to other places of detention.

At the same time it pursued its efforts to bring about other improvements in the facilities used by detainees and improvements in conditions of detention generally.


  • distributed 90,000 water-purification tablets, 2,000 kg of chlorine (HTH 70%) and 115 gallons of bleach
  • continued its repair and upgrade work in the biggest section of the PCPP prison in Port-au-Prince, refurbishing and installing bunk beds in 24 cells, rewiring the electrical system, restoring the water supply, repairing four water towers (each holding 7,570 litres), installing new showers and conducting repairs in the latrines
  • with support from the Canadian Red Cross Society, set up four offices that will be used by prison administrative staff and guards
  • at the Aquin police station: refurbished three cells, repaired the water-distribution system, constructed sanitary facilities, a septic tank and a new guard room, and installed a new kitchen
  • carried out emergency work at the Gonaïves police station to cleanse the inner yard following flooding, to repair and upgrade the drainage system and to drain the septic tank.

Help for people living in Cité Soleil and Martissant

The ICRC continues to support the Haitian National Red Cross Society's first-aid services in Cité Soleil and Martissant.

  • First-aid workers took to hospital more than 800 people, over 500 of them suffering from cholera.
  • Red Cross volunteers treated 1,200 injured people and spread information among over 25,000 people about cholera prevention and treatment.

Water management in Cité Soleil

In order to prevent a new flare-up of cholera, the ICRC has been working with the Haitian Red Cross and Cité Soleil's clean-water committee on a campaign to disinfect the water drawn by people from public tapstands, basins and private taps. It is also carrying out a repair-and-upgrade project on the neighbourhood's water mains.


  • distributed to inhabitants over 1,100,000 water-purification tablets and 240 kg of chlorine (HTH 70%)
  • repaired three tapstands and constructed three water towers, each holding 12,000 litres.

Repair-and-upgrading work continued on two major pumping stations, with the construction and equipping of new technical facilities, replacement of worn components and repair of electrical and mechanical equipment.

Restoring family links

The ICRC has continued its work to find children separated from their loved ones by the earthquake in January 2010 and to reunite them with their families.

  • The organization reunited eight children with relatives in Haiti, France and Belgium.
  • Two tracing requests filed by parents for missing children were positively resolved. One involved a five-year-old girl injured in the earthquake and then taken in by another family. The woman who took her in later saw the little girl's picture on an ICRC search poster.

Delegates are continuing efforts to reunite 29 children with their families. In 13 of these cases, contact has been established with the families concerned (six children are waiting to rejoin their families in France and seven are in Guadeloupe or Martinique waiting to rejoin their families in Haiti).

Promoting humanitarian principles

The ICRC pursued its ongoing dialogue with all relevant parties, in particular those bearing weapons.

  • Delegates made presentations to 900 cadets at the Haitian police academy to raise awareness about detainee-protection issues and the humanitarian principles that must be respected when the police use force.
  • Three sessions were organized for about 100 military and police officers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti to explain the ICRC's work and promote humanitarian principles.
  • Delegates met with 90 members of armed groups in Martissant to explain the work of the ICRC and the Haitian Red Cross and to promote humanitarian principles.
  • Fifty students at Port-au-Prince's centre for diplomatic and international studies took part in two presentations made by the ICRC on international humanitarian law.



Port-au-Prince, state prison. A detainee helps with the disinfection of the prison's cholera treatment centre.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva


Port-au-Prince, state prison. A detainee struck by cholera is rehydrated by I.V.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva


A citizen of Cité Soleil at one of the many ICRC-rehabilitated water points.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva / ht-e-00654


Port-au-Prince. A dissemination session on the ICRC and IHL for candidates of the Haitian National Police Force.
© ICRC / J. Jacob / ht-e-00662