Cite Soleil clinic fronts Haiti’s fight against cholera

By Laura Trevelyan BBC News, Cite Soleil, Haiti:

Waf Jeremie is a port at the outer edge of Cite Soleil, the sprawling slum in Port-au-Prince.

People live in derelict corrugated iron shacks and the streets are full of rubbish, which the pigs are nosing through.

We come here one day after meeting Jonathan at Cite Soleil’s hospital. He was vomiting and had watery diarrhoea, the symptoms of cholera. Jonathan lives in Waf Jeremie and said that people in his neighbourhood had died from cholera.

At the end of a stony track we find a small health clinic, run by Sister Marcella, an Italian nun from the Franciscan Order.

A pristine body bag lies by the entrance of the clinic.

He was a young boy, Sister Marcella says. His first bout of diarrhoea was at 0400. He came here, and he died six hours later, she says, fingering the brown wooden cross around her neck.

Sister Marcella tells me she has a lot of sick patients. Is it cholera?

“We don’t know, we don’t have the means to find out, but they died after vomiting and diarrhoea,” she says.

Six people died on Monday. Twenty patients are being treated with intravenous drips containing rehydrating fluid.

Sister Marcella thinks the floods after the recent hurricane may have played a part in spreading the cholera epidemic. That and the national holiday at the start of November, when people travelled all round the country.

Camps and slums

Now everyone coming into and out of this immaculately clean clinic has their feet sprayed with chlorine, and their hands doused with sanitiser.

Medicins Sans Frontieres, the specialist medical charity, is helping Sister Marcella with the supplies she needs, like rehydrating fluid, and its staff are taking the most serious cases to be treated at their specialist centre.

Sister Marcella fears it will now be impossible to contain the disease, because of the conditions in Waf Jeremie.

“People have no toilets, no clean water, they use the street as a toilet,” she says.

The only toilets are those right by the clinic that Sister Marcella managed to get built with aid money after the earthquake.

Cholera is spread via infected faeces and contaminated water.

How can you stop the disease spreading, I ask her.

“I pray that God will end it,” she says. She is talking to everyone she can, trying to mobilise those with the means to help. This small clinic could soon be overwhelmed with patients.

More than 100 of the suspected cases of Cholera in Port-au-Prince are in Cite Soleil.

Across Haiti, 1.3 million people have been displaced by the earthquake. Many are living in survivors’ camps, which are crowded and often unsanitary.

However, at least in the camps there are aid agencies. and better access to healthcare and preventative measures like water purification and chlorine.

In the slums there is very little. Waf Jeremie has Sister Marcella, dedicated to serving the poor.


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