When can a 50 cent bar of soap save a life? During a cholera outbreak in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
From The Washington Post:
Soap could slow the terrifying cholera outbreak that is quickly spreading and has just in the past week entered the ravaged capital, according to health care specialists and international aid groups.
But in the squalid slums of Port au Prince and the river towns where the cholera outbreak began three weeks ago, many Haitians held up their hands and shook their heads, saying they had no soap to stop an infection that is spread by contaminated food and water, and where a vigorous hand-washing, especially after using the toilet, is the number-one way to save lives.
Almost half a million water tablets, soap, and oral rehydration salts are being distributed by United Nations agencies and their partners.
Reuters reports that as of November 12, there have been more than 900 deaths and over 14,600 hospitalizations since the outbreak began several weeks ago. It is estimated that 200,000 could contract cholera as the outbreak spreads across the country.
UNICEF and partners are responding to a cholera outbreak in six of the country’s 10 departments…
The disease can kill within hours and can spread rapidly through the overcrowded camps where more than one million people still are housed following the January earthquake. Even outside the camps, sanitation conditions in most of the country are substandard, allowing disease to spread quickly.
Nearly half of all children in Haiti still have no access to sanitation facilities and approximately one in five children lack access to a safe drinking water source. UNICEF is on the ground supplying soap, aquatabs and rehydration salts to prevent and treat cholera and is supporting hygiene awareness campaigns to prevent the spread of the disease.
Clean the World, a not-for-profit whose mission is to collect and recycle soap and shampoo products discarded by the hospitality industry, distributes these donated products to impoverished people in an effort to prevent hygiene-related illnesses and death. The group has already distributed 100,000 bars of soap and is stepping up efforts to provide more during Haiti’s time of need.
Oxfam International is rushing aid in the form of oral rehydration salts, soap, buckets, and aquatabs to the site of a new outbreak in the northern city of Cap Haitien. Other activities of the organization include:
* Reinforcement of WASH facilities at all sites (chlorination of water, hygiene promotion, reinforcement/additional installations of sanitation facilities, increased cleaning of sanitation facilities)
* Hygiene promotion including trainings, distributions on preparation of oral rehydration salts/homemade rehydration liquids (sugar and salt solutions)
* Increased vigilance and training of staff and community members for disease surveillance, cooperation with health partners in sites of intervention
* Support to Petite Goave hospital (latrines) for cholera treatment center (CTC)
* 17,775 hygiene kits distributed so far in 47 villages
* Training of 88 community leaders in Léogâne on cholera
* Installation of messages in the sites to promote the drinking of chlorinated water
* Personal hygiene activities in schools and in the neighborhood of the sites where we work.
Soap and proper sanitation are things many of us take for granted. For Haitians it’s a matter of life and death.
Can you spare a bar of soap for Haiti? Here’s how you can help:
- Help UNICEF fight the spread of cholera in Haiti
- Donate soap and shampoo to Clean the World
- Donate to Oxfam
Photo used under Creative Commons license via Flickr with thanks to oneras