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Haiti: fight against cholera is priority

11-01-2011 Operational Update No 01/11

The ICRC is helping to fight cholera in places of detention. To date, 405 detainees have received treatment and 58 have died. In two of the poorest neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, Haitian Red Cross volunteers have transferred over 1,900 sick people to hospital with ICRC support.

Helping detainees

To ensure that people behind bars in Haiti are well treated, the ICRC is working in 18 of the country's places of detention holding some 5,800 detainees.

"Our current priority is to support the detaining authorities in their efforts to maintain and carefully monitor the measures taken to contain cholera in all these places of detention," said Sandra Dessimoz, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Port-au-Prince.

Since the epidemic started in October, over 4,900 people held in the prisons and police stations affected have been given one dose each of doxycycline, an antibiotic, as a preventive measure. In all the places of detention, the ICRC introduced hygiene measures such as the daily cleaning and disinfection of cells and latrines. Prison dispensaries are regularly supplied with medicines, oral rehydration salts and intravenous solutions.

At the civilian prison in Port-au-Prince, a cholera treatment centre and four monitoring and treatment areas were set up and equipped by the ICRC in cooperation with prison medical staff. The ICRC is in the process of installing bunk beds in various wings of the prison to improve detainee sleeping conditions. Improvements are also currently being made to another wing of approximately 800 square metres.

In the two provincial prisons most affected by cholera, in Cap-Haïtien and Les Cayes, the ICRC is monitoring the medical situation on a daily basis. Additional medical personnel have been on hand since December to respond to the epidemic.

The police stations in Petit-Goâve and Miragoâne, in the south of the country, were upgraded in such a way as to enable detainees to have regular access to the open air. Earthquake-caused damage was also repaired. The renovation and enlargement of the Aquin police station, currently under way, are being carried out with similar aims.

Bringing aid to residents of Cité-Soleil and Martissant

The ICRC continues to provide support for the health posts of the Haitian National Red Cross Society in Cité-Soleil and Martissant, two of the poorest neighbourhoods in the capital. Since the cholera epidemic started, Red Cross first-aid workers have transferred more than 1,900 sick people to hospital. To date, Red Cross volunteers have raised the awareness of more than 30,000 people of the dangers of cholera.

The ICRC is proceeding with the disinfection of the water supply network in Cité-Soleil. "To purify water at the source, we installed a chlorination system in one of the pumping stations," said Ruth Merki, who coordinates the ICRC's water and sanitation activities in the country. "At the same time, our staff distributed around 900,000 water-purification tablets for 200,000 residents." To the same end, 245 owners of water storage tanks received a total of 80 kilograms of chlorine.

The ICRC is also renovating the water supply network in Cité-Soleil, which was seriously damaged by the earthquake. Work is currently being carried out in two pumping stations to improve access to drinking water. Eight public fountains have been renovated, seven of which have water towers of 12,000 litres each.

Restoring family links

Since 12 January 2010, the ICRC has been seeking the relatives of 146 children separated from other family members by the earthquake, and the missing children of some 130 families. Working in close cooperation with the Haitian Red Cross, ICRC staff have enabled 80 children to rejoin their families or regain contact with family members.

For further information, please contact:
Jean Jacob Charles, ICRC Port-au-Prince, tel: +509 3458 4186
Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24


Port au Prince civilian prison. Dressed in protective clothing, a prisoner disinfects the prison's cholera treatment centre. 

Port au Prince civilian prison. Dressed in protective clothing, a prisoner disinfects the prison's cholera treatment centre.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva

In the courtyard of Port au Prince civilian prison, these beds are to equip the cholera treatment centre. 

In the courtyard of Port au Prince civilian prison, these beds are to equip the cholera treatment centre.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva

A family courtyard in Cité Soleil, Port au Prince. 

A family courtyard in Cité Soleil, Port au Prince.
© ICRC / O. Miltcheva