Haiti is set to vaccinate 200,000 people in three departments against cholera starting in August, with support from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
The campaign will be carried out in the Artibonite (Gonaives and Ennery), Central (Lascahobas, Saut d’Eau, Savanette and Mirebalais), and West (Arcahaie) departments, which were chosen by the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) because they are considered high-risk zones.
“Vaccination is an important complementary measure in the fight against cholera,” said PAHO/WHO Assistant Director Francisco Becerra. “But the long-term objective is to eliminate cholera, which will require sustained improvements in access to water and sanitation for the population.”
PAHO/WHO’s representative in Haiti, Jean-Luc Poncelet, noted that vaccination is one of a series of measures implemented by Haitian health authorities with support from PAHO/WHO and other international partners. Other key measures include timely treatment for people sickened by the disease, improved access to potable water and adequate sanitation, the promotion of community participation and strengthened epidemiological surveillance. “Preventing and controlling cholera is a top priority for Haiti and international organizations,” he said.
PAHO/WHO will oversee the storage and distribution of the vaccines as well as training, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of the vaccination campaign.
Although Haiti’s cholera epidemic has slowed considerably, some 6,730 cases and 51 deaths were reported between January and 6 July 2014. This compares with 26,000 cases in the first six months of 2013, according to the MSPP. “The number of cases has declined, but any death due to cholera is unacceptable,” said Poncelet.
Ban Ki-moon presents 400,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine
Last week, PAHO/WHO shipped 400,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine (OCV) to Haiti. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formally presented the vaccines to Minister of Health Florence Guillaume. They are being kept at Haiti’s PROMESS warehouse, which has been managed by PAHO/WHO since 1992.
Financed by the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), the vaccines are from a global stockpile created by the World Health Assembly in 2011 to provide an additional tool for controlling cholera epidemics around the world. Besides Haiti, the global stockpile—for which WHO serves as secretariat—has also provided vaccines to the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Guinea and Ethiopia. The stockpile is also supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Doctors without Borders and UNICEF.
PAHO/WHO is also assisting efforts to fight cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic along with other members of the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola. The Coalition, for which PAHO/WHO serves as secretariat, provides technical expertise on cholera control and elimination and is seeking to mobilize resources to support the two countries’ national plans to eliminate cholera by 2022.
PAHO works with the member countries to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas. Founded in 1902, PAHO is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It serves as the World Health Organization’s regional office for the Americas and is the Inter-American system’s specialized agency in health.