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Haiti Cholera Outbreak:
Yet Another Worry for Regular Haitians

The earthquake that devastated Haiti last year destroyed sanitation systems. Sources of clean water were destroyed, as were methods to move human waste away from areas where people are living. Haitians and foreign aid workers have been trying their best to compensate. But the immensity of need in Haiti, combined with intense rainy season flooding, have outstretched our best efforts.

Cholera cases have been mounting since mid-October. As of January 1, more than 2,700 people had died. Infections topped 130,000. Experts say 600,000 people may get the disease.

This is a particularly lethal strain of cholera. Nearly half of the deaths happened before people could get to the hospital—in as little as 2 hours after symptoms began.

What is the
American Refugee Committee
doing to help?


  • We set up sanitation and water systems before the epidemic started
  • We give soap and water purification tablets to thousands of families
  • We tell people about cholera and how to prevent it by going door-to-door and by megaphone
  • We’ve organized communities to increase the frequency of latrine cleaning
  • We screen camp residents for cholera
  • We manage a cholera treatment unit at Terrain Acra Camp and 20 oral rehydration posts in the surrounding community. People with symptoms of the disease can seek treatment and receive referrals if necessary.

What is cholera?

Cholera is a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. Without immediate treatment, victims die quickly of dehydration.

How do people get cholera?

Diarrhea from an infected person makes its way into a water source, such asground water or a river. If people drink that water, or eat food that has been washed in it, they may be infected. Many people who are infected don’t get sick, but they can still spread the disease to others.

How to Prevent Cholera in Haiti?


  • Use only safe water: bottled, boiled, or bleached.
  • Wash hands often with soap (or sand, if unavailable) and safe water.
  • Cook food well (especially seafood): Eat it hot, keep it covered, and peel fruits and vegetables.
  • Use latrines. If no latrine, bury feces 30 meters from any body of water.

How is it treated?

When a person shows early or mild symptoms of cholera, they are first given plenty of fluids and electrolytes orally to prevent dehydration. If antibioticsare available they will be given to patients. If a patient is significantly dehydrated, they should be given fluid through an IV. Extremely severe cases should be referred to treatment centers that can provide the patient with the care they require.

Number of people who received health care at our clinic each day.
Number of ARC mobile clinics, each provided care to about 50 to 75 patients a week.
Our child-friendly spaces provided educational and recreational activities for up to 1,000 children five days a week.
More than 500 women visited our safe spaces each day to participate in support groups and skill-building activities, and to receive services. The goal was to reduce violence against women and empower them.
Number of camps for earthquake survivors that ARC managed in 2010: Camp Hope, Old Military Airport Camp, Corail Camp and Terrain Acra Camp.
Over the past year, we’ve helped more than 83,000 people receive the daily essentials they need, ensuring families have clean water, shelter, health care and more.
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We managed a cholera treatment unit at Terrain Acra Camp and 20 oral rehydration posts in the surrounding community, where people with symptoms of the disease receive life-saving care.
What’s Next for 2011?
We are constructing about 2,000 shelters for earthquake survivors, allowing them to leave their tents behind for a sturdy, secure place to live.