It happened – our worst nightmare. The cholera epidemic spread from the Artibonite region to Port au Prince. And now the nightmare is getting worse: cholera is spreading throughout Haiti and it is sure to get endemic. In Les Irois in southern Haiti there are 753 cases and 11 people have died over the last 5 days. And there will likely be outbreaks of this terrible, diarrhea-dehydration-death causing disease throughout Haiti for an indefinite time period in the future. In fact, there is no end in sight – except more body bags with victims.
CTF-SOS DRS is doing its part to help. In addition to a mission to Artibonite in October and a co-sponsored cholera treatment facility on the grounds of our community in Port au Prince, we have now landed in southern Haiti in the town of Les Irois (roughly halfway down the coast between Jeremie and Port Salut [see the map] .
The situation is urgent. And events happened quite quickly. Here are a series of e-mail conversations that show how quickly things have developed. Now you will be update on the urgent situation in Les Irois.
On December 15 I responded to the urgent pleas of Fr. Norbert, a Haitian priest, via an e-mail directed to the Executive Director of Light of the World in Florida, Theresa Banks. I wrote:
Health and peace.
SOS DRS is the first outside group to arrive at the hospital given its remote location. Fr. Francine, the local parish priest, and the nurse in charge of the cholera response welcomed our group. And the medical and hygiene supplies they had brought from Jeremie were a welcome sight as well.
Therese, MD and Vickens arrived in Jeremie only after many hours of traveling on difficult roads. The new [used] vehicle that we had purchased the day before held up well though. In Jeremie Therese met with a member of one of our collaborators – Medecins du Monde [MDM] (Doctors of the World). We are collaborating with them in medical/cholera care on the grounds of our community in Port au Prince. There is an intermediate level cholera center in our side yard and numerous medical tents on the front lawn. All this is to serve the people in the camp of 6,500 that is directly in front of the community.
Our MDM colleague was helping at the hospital in Jeremie as the group was given responsibility for the cholera response there. He facilitated our acquisition of numerous bags of Lactated Ringers solution, oral rehydration salts, IV sets, doxycycline, ciprofloxacin and gloves. And then T.MD and V bought soap and drinking water elsewhere. Much as we did when T, MD and I went to respond to the cholera epidemic in Petite Riviere, Artibonite in late October/early November, these three left a hospital in a larger city to go to a more rural and underserved area – Les Irois.
Therese and I had heard 2 days before this Dec. 15 mission that 8 people had died from cholera in Les Irois. Therese had just returned from that town a few weeks before so she was particularly concerned. We both looked at each other when we received the news – wanting to help, but feeling helpless. We wanted to serve those with cholera and give our donors a chance to help them as well – e.g. St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Jupiter, Florida. But we were not sure what to do. We were particularly frustrated in our efforts because we could not leave the community on the 13th when we heard the news: they were burning tires in the streets in Port au Prince after the release of the November 28 election results. Then on the 14th in one hectic day – when there was relative calm in the city – we prepared for the mission and I sent Therese, MD and Vickens to the earthquake, hurricane and cholera-affected affected area. Stay tuned for more.
And finally, in her most recent communication, Therese reiterate the urgency of the situation
Dear all in Christ,
As I am writing you I am already in Irois. Yes, the situation is worse than we thought. When we arrived last night at 11 PM I had a meeting with the local priest (Fr. Francine Bernard) who is a diocesan priest. He told us that last week on Friday 11 people died because of cholera. And yesterday 2 people died because of cholera. In the hospital now there are 375 people who are suspected of having cholera. This is the only hospital in Irois and it lacks medicines and doctors. Thank God carried some IV fluids, oral rehydration salts, antibiotics, water, soap, gloves, etc with us. This morning we are going to work in the hospital. As the mission coordinator I have decided that SOS DRS will stay and collaborate with the hospital to respond to the cholera ooutbreak. So far there is no other organization here to help the hospital and the nurses. Therefore I might extend my stay here if the situation is getting worse and Fr. Scott may join us.
Thank you so much for your concern. Let us keep praying for the people here and let us do something together for them – our brothers and sisters.