This is a dispatch from Partners in Health, the largest provider of health care in Haiti.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — To the great relief of all, Hurricane Tomas passed by Haiti over the weekend with less destructive force than had been feared. However, heavy rains greatly exacerbated miserable conditions and heightened cholera risks throughout Haiti.

Partners In Health / Zanmi Lasante staff remained at their posts despite the storm and continued activities in the Artibonite, the Central Plateau and Port-au-Prince. This included staffing and support of cholera treatment centers, as well as crucial primary health care, nutrition programs and HIV/TB programs.

  • In Port-au-Prince, living conditions at the camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) served by PIH/ZL, have deteriorated as a result of the storm. Standing water, mud, lack of garbage collection, and limited sanitation availability make the camps a potential flashpoint for cholera outbreak. There is growing concern around 7 suspected cholera cases in Parc Jean-Marie Vincent (PJMV) — a sprawling settlement camp of people displaced by the earthquake where PIH/ZL provides health services—and additional suspected cases in the nearby Cité Soleil section of the city. In response, PIH/ZL continued its prevention campaign and set up a cholera stabilization center at PJMV in collaboration with the Red Cross.
  • In the Central Plateau, more cholera cases continue to appear, with PIH/ZL-supported facilities there reporting 111 cholera cases hospitalized. To address and restrain the spread, training of community agents on cholera continues and a further 153 community health agents were training in Hinche on November 6. In Mirebalais, a fully functional cholera treatment center opened today, November 8.
  • In the Artibonite Valley, the epicenter of the cholera outbreak, PIH/ZL continues to support facilities in St. Marc, Petite Riviere, and Verrettes. Before the storm’s arrival, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation reported 442 deaths and 6,742 cholera patients hospitalized throughout Haiti’s Lower Artibonite and Central Plateau regions.

Hurricane Tomas complicated treatment efforts at these facilities by forcing the evacuation of patients from tents into solid structures. Cholera patients are now being returned to restricted treatment areas and off-site locations for cholera.

The PIH/ZL logistical team is also providing a large volume of support in the form of medical supplies to 16 additional medical centers throughout the Artibonite Valley. As a result of their tremendous efforts, no PIH/ZL supported facility has experienced stock out of the supplies required for cholera treatment.

Amidst this progress the PIH/ZL team remains alert. Reports indicate that rain waters have forced a key hydroelectric dam on the Artibonite River in the Dominican Republic to release pressure, thus sending down a large volume of water. This release will affect communities all along the river in the Central Plateau and Artibonite–areas that suffered severe damage from flooding caused by a series of hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008.

Partners in Heaelth works in 12 countries around the world to provide quality health care to people and communities devastated by joint burdens of poverty and disease. PIH has been providing vital health care services in Haiti for more than 20 years and is the largest health care provider in the country, working with the Haitian Ministry of Health to deliver comprehensive health care services to a catchment area of 1.2 million across the Central Plateau and the Lower Artibonite Valley. PIH had nearly 5,000 staff in Haiti before the January 12 earthquake.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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