International Ministries

Cholera Update: An Open Letter to Friends And Family

November 22, 2010 Journal
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Dear Friends and Family,

We want to update you on the situation in Haiti that has been hit hard with a cholera epidemic that is spreading like wildfire all over the country.  The first cases of cholera were seen in the central plateau area, called the Artibonite, one month ago.  St. Nicholas hospital in St. Marc started treating the first cases and an alert went out to all the public health departments and NGO’s working in Haiti to be prepared for a cholera outbreak.

We had just returned from the US after a two-week visit to meet our new grandson, born on Oct. 4, when we heard the news of the first cases of cholera.  We began networking and educating ourselves and other health care workers on the severity and rapidity of this disease that is transmitted through contaminated water.

Many people in Haiti do not have access to clean drinking water nor do they use latrines.  Streams and rivers are easily contaminated and spread the disease. A likely scenario might be as simple as someone with cholera defecating near a stream and rain washing the feces into the river where children play and bathe, women wash clothes, and many receive their drinking water.  Thus one person passes cholera to another.
 
According to public health authorities it is not a difficult disease to treat as long as the sick person can receive immediate re-hydration through oral re-hydration solution and IV serums for severely dehydrated persons. The disease can debilitate a person very rapidly. According to UN reports, there have been around 40,000 cases of cholera and over 1,186 deaths reported in the country. In the past two weeks the disease has hit the north of Haiti especially hard.
             
There has been a large effort in the last month among the local churches, the Haitian public health department, and local Haitian community groups to educate the people about cholera, water security, and healthy sanitation practices. The Community Health Evangelism village health workers of the Medical Ambassadors of Haiti with whom we partner have been playing a key and vital role in this cholera prevention program, going door to door teaching and organizing their neighborhoods.
 
The small outpatient Ebenezer Health Clinic near where we live has been building a clinic with beds next to the outpatient center. Although it is not completely finished, it is now in full use and is over-flowing with patients.  People arrive all day and night with vomiting and diarrhea, many close to death due to rapid dehydration. Some die on the way to the clinic. Clinic personnel have had to put patients in the halls on cots and have set up a tent to accommodate all who come for help. The clinic committee and staff have been working hard 24/7 to save lives for the past two weeks. 

We have received miraculous supplies (Lactated Ringers, oral re-hydration powder, Clorox, etc.) from Medical Ambassadors via truck from the Dominican Republic and from US donors via Agape Flights and Missionary Flights International. More than once, supplies have arrived just when our stocks were almost gone.  The teamwork effort has been heroic.
 
To add to the problems, the upcoming Presidential Haitian election, due to occur on Nov. 28, has brought even more challenges. Recently there have been roadblocks and violence preventing urgent supplies from getting to hospitals and clinics.

We were greatly blessed to have a volunteer medical team from the Good Samaritan Hospital in La Romana, Dominican Republic, helping for 4 days. The medical team of nine, led by ABC missionary nurse, Kristy Engel, had to return to La Romana in the middle of the days of violence.  They risked their lives traveling back through many roadblocks manned by people burning tires and wielding machetes. Our trusted friend and driver, Miller, accompanied the team, talking his way through each of the road blocks until they finally made it safely to the border and back to La Romana. Another answer to prayer!
 
While Steve has spent most of his time up at the clinic caring for cholera patients and helping the staff, Nancy has been on the phone and on email trying to get supplies and arrange for medical help to care for all the patients. Micah and Nancy have helped in hosting the volunteers and washing uniforms in Clorox. We have all been teaching our neighbors about cholera and distributing educational posters and fliers.
           
In spite of the overwhelming conditions, we have felt the presence of Christ upholding and encouraging us as Haiti goes through yet another disaster. Please keep praying for us and for peace to come to the many troubled hearts in this land.  Pray for workers to come and help and for needed supplies to arrive.  Pray for Haiti to learn Jesus way of love and health.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support, which we have felt during this difficult time.

Nancy, Steve, and Micah