A Unique Partnership in the Fight Against Cholera

The day after Hurricane Matthew hit, HEI/SBH received a message from Hope Health Action (HHA), a British NGO that operates a hospital and medical services in the north of Haiti. Their programs had been mercifully spared from the effects of the storm, and they were looking for a way to help people who had been in the hurricane’s direct path.

Among other post-storm concerns, we were preparing for a possible influx of patients suffering from cholera and other waterborne diseases. Heavy rains tend to lead to increased outbreaks of waterborne diseases, as water runs down hillsides, picking up debris in its path, and dumping it into rivers and streams that people rely on for drinking and washing.

When a large number of people need care for the same kind of disease at once, as happens in a sudden outbreak, it is critically important to have a good store of medication and supplies on hand to support their treatments. While we were rushing to assess the damage in our community and ensure that all of our staff were safe and our patients could access the care they needed, HHA stepped in to help raise funds and supplies in anticipation of cholera’s descent.

Through an unusual and generous partnership, HHA offered to fundraise directly for our cholera prevention and treatment programs, raising money from their own supporters and from the Haiti Health Trust and BMS World Mission to pass directly to HEI/SBH. HHA also worked with their partners at Konbit Sante to secure a donation of cholera supplies and water treatment tablets (Aquatabs) for us to use at the hospital and to distribute in the surrounding communities. These resources went to immediate use in helping to prepare the hospital for patients, and do prevention work in the communities we serve.

Thankfully, a combination of our Community Health Team’s tireless efforts to educate the community, distribution of Aquatabs, and the Ministry of Health’s cholera vaccination campaign in November 2016 (in which we played a significant role) kept the number of patients coming to SBH’s cholera treatment center low. The Aquatabs donated by HHA and Konbit Sante played an important role in preventing an outbreak – nearly 25,000 Aquatabs have been distributed in the Fond des Blancs area since the hurricane.

The lower-than-expected number of cholera cases in Fond des Blancs allowed us to work with HHA and Konbit Sante to redirect some of the funds and supplies to support SBH’s mobile clinics in the hardest hit areas further west, including the communities of Tiburon, Les Anglais, Maniche, Cavaillon, and Aquin. The funds donated by HHA’s generous supporters helped make it possible for our mobile clinic teams to serve 12,000 people through 55 days of clinics­­. Nearly all of these people had not seen a medical professional since the storm, and many had not been to a doctor in years­–if ever. The primary and preventative care offered at the mobile clinics helped treat and prevent waterborne illnesses, as well as a huge range of other chronic and disaster-caused conditions.

This is the first time we can remember another NGO offering to raise money on behalf of HEI/SBH. We are extremely grateful to HHA, its supporters, BMS World Mission, The Haiti Health Trust, and Konbit Sante for their generosity, desire to help our communities in need, and willingness to send support to wherever the need is greatest. They are trusted partners and friends in the work of bringing healthcare to the most vulnerable. As the Haitian proverb goes, men anpil chay pa lou–many hands make light the load. HHA certainly helped lighten the load and provide much-needed support in the days and months after Hurricane Matthew.