03 Nov 10 28 Nov 16

Haiti: Cholera Treatment Centres offer Best Defence

Since 22nd October, MSF medical teams have treated close to 3,600 people who presented to medical facilities with acute or severe cases of diarrhoea, symptoms consistent with possible cholera infection.

Our teams are currently supporting two Haitian Ministry of Health hospitals in the Artibonite Region, where the cholera outbreak originated. At St. Nicholas Hospital in St. Marc, 170 people are, on average, admitted daily. Further south, in Petite Rivière, approximately 150 people are admitted per day in the hospital there.

Country Year © Author/MSF

“Cholera treatment centres, where patients can be isolated, are critical to the effective treatment of cholera,” said Jean Pletinckx, MSF emergency coordinator in Haiti. “Cholera is a highly treatable and preventable disease, especially once symptomatic patients are treated in a controlled environment like a CTC. The presence of CTCs in cholera-affected areas can relieve pressure on local hospitals and health structures, greatly reducing the risk of infection among pre-existing inpatients and the wider community.”

At MSF’s own five facilities in the capital, Port-au-Prince, teams are prepared to treat people presenting with cholera-like symptoms, with more than 300 beds already set aside for treatment in cholera treatment centres (CTCs). Up to 800 beds will be available soon, should the outbreak spread. A few dozen people suffering from severe diarrhoea have been treated over the last days at MSF facilities in the city. A 20-bed cholera treatment centre has also been set up in Leogane, where MSF already runs a hospital.

In all the areas where we are working, teams are conducting community outreach to advise residents on how to prevent cholera infection and how it can be easily treated and cured.

“While cholera and cholera-like symptoms can present very quickly and become life threatening, unnecessary deaths can easily be averted with swift access to properly-equipped and staffed facilities in close proximity to outbreak areas,” said Dr. David Olson, MSF medical adviser and cholera specialist in Haiti.

MSF currently has close to 60 international staff and more than 500 national staff devoted to its various cholera interventions, and additional staff are expected. Two cargo planes bearing 150 tons of medical supplies for cholera treatment have arrived, with the latest plane arriving  on 30th October.

MSF has extensive experience intervening in cholera outbreaks in varied locations throughout the world, treating 329,000 people between 2006 and 2009. In the last year, MSF has carried out cholera interventions in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Zambia.

MSF Activities in Haiti

Alongside cholera intervention activities, all normal MSF operations in Haiti, including postoperative care, maternal care, secondary care, surgery and mental health programs, carry on without interruption.

MSF has more than 3,000 Haitian and international medical and non-medical staff providing assistance. They run seven private, free of charge, secondary-level care hospitals and support two Ministry of Health structures in Port-au-Prince, accounting for nearly 1,000 hospital beds in the capital city. These facilities provide emergency, trauma, obstetrical, paediatric, maternal, and orthopaedic care services. Mental health care, treatment and counselling for victims of sexual violence are also provided by MSF.

Outside the capital, MSF supports Ministry of Health hospitals in the cities of Leogane and Jacmel with nearly 200 beds of patient capacity. MSF opened a private 120-bed container hospital in Leogane in October.

From 12th January to 30th September, MSF has treated more than 339,000 people, performed more than 15,700 surgeries; and delivered over 9,900 babies. MSF provides primary medical care and relief supplies to displaced persons living in various camps in Port-au-Prince through mobile and fixed clinics, and also carries out water-and-sanitation services to displaced persons in the Cite de Soleil slum.