Haiti One Year On: Coordinating to Combat Cholera

Dr_Ribka_Amsalu

Dr. Ribka Amsalu Tessera, Emergency Health Advisor, Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Friday, January 7, 2011

I’ve been in Haiti since December 20 to provide cover for staff enjoying the festive season with loved ones. On Christmas Day I had time to relax – for an afternoon at least – as we enjoyed a turkey lunch. Later we visited three of our cholera treatment units and gave cakes as gifts to our staff working around the clock to prevent the spread of the virus and to save lives. We wanted to show our appreciation. It was a nice thing to do.

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera

Angeline washes her hands to protect against cholera.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Today I’ve been in a meeting of the health cluster including WHO – World Health Organization – since we have to prioritize where we are going to focus efforts on combating cholera. With so many cases of cholera now reported across Haiti it really is very important that we coordinate between all the agencies working on containing the cholera spread. It can take a lot of my time in coordination meetings but it is important to ensure we cover all the gaps.

It now looks like the cholera outbreak will last at least another three months, especially in the mountainous regions of Haiti. We’re now working on how we can reach people in these remote areas – another reason why coordination of all the agencies is important.

Educating camp residents about cholera

Hygiene promoter Arcliffe Laguerre leads a discussion on cholera prevention for residents of a Save the Children camp.
Photo Credit: Susan Warner

Earlier today we had some great news. Medical supplies needed to combat cholera arrived from Europe. We’d been waiting on these supplies for a while. Due to the scale of the cholera crisis in Haiti they’d been in short supply. So it is good they have arrived. But first we must work with our loggies – logisticians – whose job it is to have the supplies clear customs as quickly as possible. Then we can work together to get the supplies to clinics to help people affected by cholera. Hopefully we will get the supplies out and into the clinics very soon.

Today has been a good day.

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Sarita’s Story: Helping Students Stay Healthy in Nepal

Sanjana_profile_picture Sanjana Shrestha

Nepal Information Coordinator, Save the Children

Kahtmandu, Nepal 

Friday, November 19, 2010

For Sarita, 15, going to the bathroom during school used to bring fears of being bitten by a snake or embarrassment of having people see her going out in the open.

“The surrounding area of the school has poor sanitation,” explained Surya Prasad Bhatta, a teacher at Chaudyal Lower Secondary School in Kailali District of Nepal, where Sarita is a student. “The students would usually have to go on the river bank or in the jungle due to lack of toilets. It was difficult for them.”

Sartia “It used to take a long time to go to the jungle and come back to school,” added Sarita.

 But two years ago through a Save the Children-supported program the school built four new toilets for boys and four new toilets for girls. 

 “Things are different now,” said Sarita. “We use the toilet, and we don’t have to stand in long lines because we have enough of them. There is privacy, and it is less time-consuming.”

 To keep the restrooms clean, each student contributes two rupees (3 cents) to buy supplies like hand soap, detergent and buckets.  (The money also helps restock the school’s first-aid kit with medicines.)

 The school has set up a daily schedule, assigning each class and the School Health Management Committee to clean the toilets on different days. Inside toilet

Handwashing Helps Prevent Illnesses

 After going to the bathroom at school, children used to crowd around the one hand pump – the only source of water near the school – to wet their hands.  “We didn’t have soap before,” says Sarita.

 Save the Children installed two handwashing stations near the new toilets at school. These stations include pumps that you push by hand to get clean water, a large jug with a spout for pouring the water and soap. Students were taught about the importance of washing their hands to prevent bacteria and viruses, which can cause illnesses, and the proper technique for handwashing.

 “We learned that we should always wash our hands using soap and water before eating, after using the toilet and after touching human waste with your hands,” said Sarita.

 Since the handwashing stations were built, Sarita says fewer of her friends are getting sick, especially from diarrhea.

And, her teacher is seeing changes in the community as well as at school.  “Students have also developed a habit of washing their hands with soap at home,” said Bhatta.

 Outside toitletsThe new restrooms and handwashing stations are part of Save the Children’s School Health and Nutrition program that aims to help children stay healthy and stay in school.  The program includes providing children with access to safe and child-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and education.  Over the past two years, Save the Children has helped put 355 toilets in schools and preschools in Nepal. And, in 2009 alone, Save the Children installed 489 handwashing stations at Nepali schools.

 

Santosh Mahato,  Save the Children’s Nepal Health Programme Coordinator, contributed reporting.