Cholera in Haiti becomes focus of relief work
Barbara Denman, Baptist Press
November 24, 2010

Cholera in Haiti becomes focus of relief work

Cholera in Haiti becomes focus of relief work
Barbara Denman, Baptist Press
November 24, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE — In the wake

of massive rainfall and extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas as it

skirted western Haiti, disaster-weary Haitians are now coping with an increased

spread of cholera worsened by bacteria-filled standing water.

The heightened cholera

outbreak has led Florida Baptist officials to focus on the potential epidemic,

said Dennis Wilbanks of the state convention’s partnership missions department,

who traveled to the country Nov. 10-17, just days after Tomas’ onslaught.

“It is a potential

catastrophic event worthy of keeping an eye on,” Wilbanks said, even as the

government and NGOs efforts in water, health and sanitation have slowed the


Haiti’s Ministry of Health

(MSPP) reports 1,186 deaths and 19,646 cases as of Nov. 16, the last day that

analyzed figures are available. Overall, the MSPP reports that 49,418 people

have sought medical attention since the epidemic was declared.

Included in the cholera

deaths are two pastors of the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d’Haiti

(CMBH), Florida Baptists’ partner convention in Haiti: Marc Edrouard Theodore

of Eglise Baptiste Par la Foi K-Soleil in Gonaives, located in the Artibonite

Association; and Alphonse Joseph of Eglise Baptiste Coupe-a-David in the North


“It seems that the cholera

actually started in the Artibonite Valley where the water flow decreases and

becomes stagnant in the rice fields,” Wilbanks said.

The Florida convention is

working in partnership with CMBH churches to help prevent and curb the spread

of the disease in the churches and their communities.

The convention has allocated

$30,000 to purchase water, water purification tablets and IV bags for churches

in five CMBH associations, with the largest funding given to the Artibonite


Additionally volunteers at

the convention-owned mission house in Port-au-Prince will begin assembling bags

with sugar, salt and water purification tablets to distribute through the

churches to needy families.

The convention staff has

printed 50,000 brochures in both French Creole and English on prevention and

treatment of the disease which will be distributed through the churches, drawing

on resources prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Education is a key

ingredient in the prevention and treatment of cholera,” Wilbanks said. “Prevention

is most critical.”

Additionally, Wilbanks said

hydration is necessary to help those who have the disease to overcome it. With

bags of water supplies, church members with cholera can be treated by remaining

hydrated to lessen the need or treatment at overcrowded hospitals.

While in Haiti, Wilbanks

heard reports and assessed damage from Hurricane Tomas. While there were “limited

deaths due to the flooding, every association experienced some devastation

mostly from flooding and rushing water,” he said. Many new churches lost their

tarp roofs.

The convention has been

caring for the hunger needs in the hardest hit areas, Wilbanks reported.

Rice that was previously

purchased and stored in each association was released and distributed by

churches to people in heavily damaged regions.

Freight containers of

Buckets of Hope have been moved into the areas and currently are being

distributed to families. The buckets, filled with a week’s supply of food aid,

were prepared by Southern Baptists in response to the Jan. 12 earthquake. Many

of the containers shipped from the U.S. were held up by Haiti customs officials

who were overwhelmed by the volume of humanitarian shipments after the quake.

“Our response to meet the

needs of the Haitian people has been proactive,” Wilbanks said.

“Our food

distribution is at least a week ahead of where we would have been because we

had rice located throughout the country and Buckets of Hope scheduled for

distribution,” he added.

Working with the area

director of missions in Haiti, the Florida convention, with a continued

presence of volunteers and staff in the country, will continue to keep a

watchful eye on the situation, Wilbanks said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Denman is

the Florida Baptist Convention’s director of communications.)