Not sure if I’ve updated my dear readers since Haiti on my Mind, but it’s been decided: Abby and I are returning to Haiti for two weeks in March, and we couldn’t be more happy about this opportunity. We started raising money this past weekend by throwing a huge garage sale (separate post to come about that), and we were actually able to raise a good starting chunk of money.

One thing many friends and family have been addressing, out of concern for our safety, is the cholera epidemic that is ravaging the country. It’s in some ways a very justifiable concern, so I wanted to write a little bit about it to set friends and family at ease.

How do you get cholera?
People get cholera by ingesting contaminated food or water. Cholera is not transmitted by being around people with cholera, but rather by ingesting contaminated food or water, that is caused by unsanitary conditions.

How do you prevent cholera?
The thing that really angers me and many others about this epidemic is how easily it can be prevented. The problem in Haiti and other countries that are affected by cholera is the lack of access to clean water, and therefore the inability to clean food before ingesting it. It’s easy for us in developing countries to criticize people for using unclean water, but if you had a choice between dirty water and no water…well, it’s not much of a choice, is it? Below is a flier that is being distributed to people in Haiti, showing them how they can prevent cholera (yes, it’s in creole, but I think the pictures are self explanatory :) ).

Some people have asked if we can get a vaccine to prevent it. I didn’t think there was, but apparently there is. However, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention actually does NOT recommend getting it.
Here is some information Abby found online:
All people (visitors or residents) in areas where cholera is occurring or has occurred should observe the following recommendations:

* Drink only bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water and bottled or canned carbonated beverages. When using bottled drinks, make sure that the seal has not been broken.
o To disinfect your own water: boil for 1 minute or filter the water and add 2 drops of household bleach or ½ an iodine tablet per liter of water.
o Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.
* Wash your hands often with soap and clean water.
* If no water and soap are available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner (with at least 60% alcohol).
o Clean your hands especially before you eat or prepare food and after using the bathroom.
* Use bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.
* Eat foods that are packaged or that are freshly cooked and served hot.
o Do not eat raw and undercooked meats and seafood or unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
* Dispose of feces in a sanitary manner to prevent contamination of water and food sources

How do you treat cholera?

Again, something that is so simple– it is extremely upsetting so many people have died from cholera. Cholera becomes deadly because your body becomes dehydrated, and it is extreme dehydration which may cause death. The solution as proposed by the World Health Organization: an oral rehydration solution which consists of sugar and electrolytes. Yep, sugar and electrolytes. So why are so many people in Haiti and around the world dying? Because they lack access to basic materials, such as clean water to prevent and treat cholera. Crazy, right?
With the right treatment, less than 1% of cases are deadly.
What is the situation like where Abby and I will be staying?

We are going with the same organization we went with last time, which is now named All Hands Volunteers, so we feel very comfortable with how they prepare their food and the standards of cleanliness on base. They also have nurses and trained medical staff, and have been working hard to spread prevention awareness around the community of Leogane. They have also been involved with the implementation of sanitation systems and bio sand filters way before the cholera epidemic hit the country.
You can click here to see what All Hands is doing on base, which includes elevated hygiene levels.
We want all our friends and family to know that we will be cautious with the food we eat and the water we drink, but our concerns should be focused on the thousands of people around the world who do not have the privileges that Abby and I will have when we are down there: access to clean water, and prompt access to treatment should it become necessary.
Want to learn more:
As always, thank you to everyone who has supported us and continues to support us. Your love and support are appreciated and needed :)