Do you remember when Haiti’s cholera epidemic broke out? It was in 2010, in the wake of the massive January earthquake that destroyed so much of the country’s infrastructure. It was the first time cholera had come to Haiti, meeting an unprepared and shattered health system.
Today, Haiti’s cholera epidemic remains a burden, but it is no longer raging out of control—a huge achievement for the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere that is still rebuilding itself after a major natural disaster. Over on the Impatient Optimists blog, PSI/Haiti Executive Director Anick Supplice Dupuy explains how that happened, and what others might take from that experience to help get West Africa’s Ebola epidemic under control:
One of the crucial lessons we learned from cholera is that volunteers and community health workers must go to door to door to talk to people, to address their concerns, to build trust and break down the rumors and myths that can spread with a new illness .
Some organizations held teach-ins in tent cities created after the earthquake to spread the word about hygiene, sanitation and early oral rehydration. Other used locally made TV documentaries to explain how diarrhea can affect kids and adults, and what to do to treat it. Some people were skeptical. But as they saw how those who followed the advice were able to survive cholera, the practices took hold.
Photo: Clients attend a public health information session facilitated by PSI Haiti (Credit: David Rochkind)