The solution is as simple as a bar of soap. As the situation in Haiti goes from bleak to bleaker, the recent cholera outbreak is quickly spreading through the country–and the easiest fix is out of reach for many. The Haitian health ministry is reporting an estimated 917 deaths and 14,600 hospitalizations since the cholera outbreak was confirmed in late October–though that number only accounts for people who have made it to clinics, the actual number is expected to be much higher.
Amid the squalid slums, hillside shanties and tent towns for displaced persons, the most tragic plot line of this story may simply be that Haitians need soap, yet bars of ordinary hand soap are few and far between. Cholera is spread by contaminated food and water, and a hearty hand-washing after using the toilet is the number one way to avoid the infection.
A bar of soap in Haiti costs about 50 cents, but many Haitians cannot afford it. More than half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. More pressing in the minds of many is filling an empty stomach.
Experts at the Pan American Health Organization forecast 200,000 Haitians will show signs of the disease, while it is possible a million will be infected, but remain asymptomatic carriers still capable of spreading the potentially deadly bacteria. Although there are plans for water trucks, chlorination, new wells and water distribution points–the situation needs more immediate attention and soap is a quick fix.
UNICEF brought 100,000 pieces of soap in 500 of the country’s orphanages. Along the Artibonite River valley, the group distributed 82,000 bars. They will be heading into 5,000 schools in coming weeks.
I love the work of the awesome group, Clean the World, which collects barely-used soap from hotels in North America then recycles and redirects them to where they can be put to good use. So far they have delivered 100,000 bars of soap to Haiti, and promise 200,000 more soaps by the end of the month.
If you have soap you would like to donate you can ship it to the Clean the World Recycling Operations Center in Orlando:
Clean The World
8026 Sunport Drive, Ste 306
Orlando, FL. 32809
And after you’ve sent some soap to Haiti, see how washing your hands can make a small difference in your own life: The Single Best Way to Prevent Illness