COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Nov. 11, 2010) - Haitian and international health officials acknowledged today the cholera epidemic continues to grow at an alarming rate, and is now "a matter of national security." Food For The Poor has shipped and airlifted containers of critically needed supplies such as desperately sought-after medicines, hygiene kits, fluids to rehydrate patients, and blankets. Rains and severe flooding associated with Hurricane Tomas facilitated the spread of the quick-killing disease.
With thousands infected, the situation continues to act as a reminder of the importance of access to clean water and to moving earthquake survivors into permanent housing. Food For The Poor remains committed to investing in sanitation and water projects throughout the country. Since the earthquake, Food For The Poor has shipped more than 1,250 containers of aid and has built more than 1,500 permanent, concrete block two-room homes with sanitation units.
Three weeks after cholera was confirmed in the Caribbean nation, the waterborne sickness has claimed at least 643 lives, mostly in the countryside, according to Associated Press reports from Haiti. The AP reported that approximately 10,000 people are infected and have been hospitalized for cholera throughout Haiti with symptoms including serious diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Consensus is that the deaths usually come from the extreme shock brought on by dehydration.
"Due to the lack of sanitary conditions for more than a million displaced earthquake survivors the threat of an epidemic has been a real possibility for months," said Robin Mahfood, Food For The Poor President/CEO. "The painful reality is that death has become all too common for the people of Haiti. We have heard from the clinics that mothers continue to rock their sick children in their arms in hopes of keeping their babies' hearts beating."
"There are so many people who are suffering in Haiti. Their anguish truly hurts my heart," said Mahfood, whose agency's 24-year tenure in Haiti has aided the nonprofit's quick response.
"Many [in Haiti] try to live without knowing really where to go," said Rev. Duken Augustin, who partners with Food For The Poor in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. "However, as we visited the victims yesterday, I was reminded how much the people count on Food For The Poor. A lady who lost her small business in the waters told me with tears, 'My situation has never been so difficult. I don't know what I am going to do to feed my five children, but seeing you here today is comforting. I know that I am not alone.'"
"This is the kind of support that we are trying to bring, especially now that everything seems to go against the country," said Augustin. "We know that we are not alone. Thank God and many blessings to all of you."
Access to clean water is a matter of life and death for the people of Haiti. In Haiti, there are a lot of misconceptions about how cholera is spread. The people are afraid now about food and water supplies.
Food For The Poor has moved quickly to ship and install 30 solar-powered filtration units in Haiti's affected Artibonite region since the cholera outbreak. Water Missions International, in partnership with Food For The Poor, has helped to install the water filtration units. The filtration systems each can treat up to 10,000 gallons of water per day and reduce waterborne diseases by removing suspended pathogens.
A Food For The Poor-Haiti employee recently spoke to a woman near one of the water filtration units in Petit Reviere, in Haiti's affected Artibonite region. She had recently lost several friends to the cholera outbreak and was desperately trying to keep her family safe. She told the officer, "If it was not for Food For The Poor, I would be dead by now."
"The epidemic of cholera, a highly contagious disease, is no longer a simple emergency, it's now a matter of national security," said the director of Haiti's health ministry, Gabriel Thimote, at a press conference on Nov. 9.
Right now, Food For The Poor is in a race against time to collect much-needed supplies: evaporated and condensed milk, canned mackerel, canned corn beef, canned chicken, sardines, Spam, and Vienna sausages with an expiration date six months or longer; Powerade, Gatorade, and Pedialyte; hygiene kits: with soap, toothpaste, feminine personal-care items, and diapers. Food For The Poor will not accept clothing, shoes, or water; we obtain trailer loads of these items from donors.
To learn how to help, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/emergency or make a $10 donation by texting "HAITI" to 25383.
Food For The Poor, the third-largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.