Educating against cholera in Haiti

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© UNICEF/HTIA2010-00018/Marta Ramoneda
Alcema (red shirt) , 14, talks about the hygiene session that has taken place in the camp where he lives, in Port au Prince, Haiti.

By Pi James

NEW YORK, USA, 6 January 2011 – The children of Haiti suffered multiple crises in 2010, from the January 12 earthquake, to the devastation caused by Hurricane Tomas, and the outbreak of cholera in October – all of which seriously affected children’s access to education.

According to the UNICEF report on Haiti one year after the earthquake, cholera, a bacterial infection spread through water and food, has claimed more than 2,500 lives and affected more than 100,000 people.

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In the lead up to the one year anniversary of the earthquake, UNICEF podcast moderator Amy Costello spoke with Dr. Ralph Ternier, Director of Community Care and Support with Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health, an American non-profit organization that has been providing healthcare to Haiti’s poor for more than 20 years.

Dr. Ternier said that protection against the spread of cholera was complicated, particularly given the living conditions of many communities in rural Haiti.

“First of all there’s no sanitation,” said Dr. Ternier, “and then [the children] don’t have enough education to know [clean] water or that they should wash their hands. And you can go to some houses where you’re never going to find something to wash your hands”.

“If the people are educated and have somewhere to wash their hands, it’s OK, fine, we have the solution of cholera. But… it’s not that simple,” he continued.

Dr. Ternier stressed there needed to be a combination of education, to produce behavioural change, as well as the immediate response of vaccines and antibiotics.

“It’s all very complex; it’s not as simple as soap and education.”

Full transcript and bio of Dr. Ralph Ternier

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