Nearly two months into the cholera outbreak in Haiti, UNICEF is warning that approximately 40 per cent of the growing number of confirmed cases are among children. Since the onset of the cholera outbreak, 9 in 10 confirmed cholera cases in Haiti have been reported in areas most affected by the deepening nutrition crisis in the country.
Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, also known as severe wasting, are more vulnerable to cholera and at least three times more at risk of dying from the disease.
“In Haiti right now, there is a triple threat to children’s lives –malnutrition, cholera and armed violence. And sometimes all three together,” said Manuel Fontaine, Director of the Office of Emergency Programmes, as he concluded a four-day visit to Haiti. “I was shocked to see many children at risk of dying in the cholera treatment centres. In just a few hours, acute watery diarrhoea and vomiting dehydrate and weaken them so much they may die without timely and adequate treatment. Cholera and malnutrition are a lethal combination, one leading to the other.”
During his visit, Fontaine visited UNICEF-supported cholera treatment centres in Cite Soleil and Port-au-Prince, where malnourished children receive life-saving care. He also went to a centre which provides medical, psychological, and psychosocial care to survivors of gender-based violence.
As of 21 November, the Ministry of Health reported 924 confirmed cholera cases, over 10,600 suspected cases, and 188 deaths.
“In Haiti, the vicious cycle between malnutrition and cholera can be broken. Simple, affordable and effective treatment can save Haitian children’s lives, as long as we reach the most vulnerable families before it’s too late. But the urban-poor areas most affected by the cholera outbreak are also under the control of heavily armed gangs. Amid widespread armed violence and insecurity in large parts of the capital, humanitarian teams are walking on eggshells,” added Fontaine.
From July to date, UNICEF and its partners screened and assessed the nutritional status of nearly 6,200 children in the commune of Cité Soleil, the largest urban-poor area in the capital city. In total, about 2,500 under-five children suffering from severe and moderate acute malnutrition received quality treatment.
Amid an extremely insecure and volatile environment, UNICEF has stepped up efforts to respond to cholera in coordination with the national authorities and partners by delivering:
- 245 cholera kits and 32,940 ringer lactate sachets, 313,000 oral rehydration salts sachets, zinc, antibiotics, consumables and PPE material to health departments;
- 135,000 water purifying tablets in a partner hospital in Cite Soleil;
- 468,160 litres of water distributed by water trucking to 22,290 persons currently living in or displaced from Cite Soleil;
- 300,000 sachets of ready-to-use therapeutic food were made available;
- Medical and hygiene supplies to hold mobile health clinics in Cite Soleil while informing over 51,000 households on cholera prevention;
- Cholera prevention spots aired by radio and TV stations and leaflets distributed to reduce cholera transmission.
To step up its efforts to respond to the cholera outbreak in the next five months, UNICEF is appealing for US$27.5 million to provide humanitarian assistance in health, water, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and protection for 1.4 million people.