In Haiti, some relief workers going where others fear to tread


Scattered violence and protests in Haiti are curtailing some relief activities there, but so far it hasn’t appeared to slow the Minneapolis-based American Refuge Committee.

NPR reported today that the U.N. has stopped shipping medical supplies to the country still struggling to recover from an earthquake earlier this year.

So far, the UN has been forced to cancel flights carrying soap, medical supplies and personnel to Cap Haitien and Port de Paix. On the ground, Oxfam reports suspension of a project to chlorinate water for 300,000 people in slum areas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has halted training of medical staff in cholera response and a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse has been looted of 500 metric tonnes of food and burned. Road blocks set up by demonstrators are also hampering people from getting to hospital.

Some Haitians are blaming U.N. troops for bringing cholera to the island. Some relief groups have suspended their operations.

I checked with Therese Gales of the ARC, who reports:

Basically, while we are aware of the protests and our team is on heightened security alert due to the blockades, we have not experienced any problems directly. Our team is not being targeted. In fact, we have the acceptance and cooperation of our camp residents in Terrain Acra Camp (a camp we manage, which is home to more than 10,000 people and is located in Port-au-Prince) in the operation of a cholera treatment unit we opened in the middle of camp in response to the cholera crisis. We are lucky to have the trust of our camp residents in this particular matter.

CHOLERA RESPONSE: FYI–To respond to the cholera crisis, the American Refugee Committee team has been:

– spreading health messages door-to-door and by megaphone

– distributing water purification tablets to ensure clean water

– increasing the frequency of cleaning latrines

– increasing the chlorination level of trucked water

– distributing soap

– reinforcing our health- and hygiene-promotion activities

– expanding training for medical staff and community health workers on cholera to help stop the spread of the disease.

– We opened a cholera treatment unit in Terrain Acra Camp…

– We also are focusing on ORPs (oral rehydration posts) in the surrounding community, which we provide through mobile clinics.

Gales says ARC is providing services directly to over 80,000 people Haiti. More info is on their Web site.