Dr. Farmer: Vaccines Critical Part of Effort to Save Lives; PIH Working with Haitian Partners to Reach Those in Need
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeff Marvin, Media Relations Manager
BOSTON (October 13, 2016)—Partners In Health (PIH), the largest nongovernment health care provider in Haiti, applauded this week’s announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that it will send one million cholera vaccine doses to Haiti as part of the global response to the growing public health and humanitarian crisis in that country.
Conditions on the ground in Haiti following the impact of Hurricane Matthew—including contaminated water and damage to health care infrastructure—are a deadly recipe for a spike in cases of cholera and other water-borne diseases. Since it began in 2010, the cholera epidemic in Haiti has caused almost 10,000 registered deaths and sickened hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
“This action by the WHO is a welcome sign that the world community understands the scope and gravity of the situation in Haiti,” Partners In Health Co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer said. “As Partners In Health and our Haitian partners have demonstrated, the cholera vaccine is a simple and inexpensive intervention that slows the spread of cholera and saves lives.”
“It is great news that we are now talking about how best to use the cholera vaccine in Haiti rather than if we should use it at all,” said Partners In Health senior health and policy advisor Dr. Louise Ivers, who leads the organization’s cholera treatment and prevention activities. “Vaccines are just one part of the approach to controlling cholera—we still must ensure access to treatment for those who are sick, and work on ensuring access to safe water and sanitation—but they can have a very important role to play in limiting outbreaks.”
“No one should die from cholera, which is an entirely preventable and treatable disease,” Dr. Ivers continued. “These vaccines save lives and are an important part of the toolkit to stop cholera.”
PIH and Zanmi Lasante (ZL), its sister organization in Haiti, have worked alongside Haiti’s Ministry of Health from the beginning of the cholera outbreak in 2010, mobilizing thousands of community health workers, opening cholera treatment centers and launching sanitation and hygiene initiatives, among other efforts, to contain the spread of the disease.
PIH has treated more than 148,000 people for suspected cholera. In 2012, despite skepticism from aid agencies and global public health organizations, PIH and ZL, with GHESKIO in Port-au-Prince, led a campaign that vaccinated 100,000 people, which dramatically reduced the number of cases in those communities. Since then, the Haitian Ministry of Health, with the support of their partners, administered the vaccine to hundreds of thousands more citizens.
“Vaccines are a critical part of the response effort,” Dr. Farmer continued. “Partners In Health is now mobilizing much-needed medical supplies to fight cholera, other water-borne disease, and tetanus. The global community must also demonstrate it has learned the lessons of the response to the 2010 earthquake. It is crucial that we build on our efforts to empower and equip our Haitian colleagues with the tools they need to mount an effective and rapid response to this crisis.”
Partners In Health is an international medical organization that helps build and sustain public health systems in poor and underserved communities around the world. Launched in Haiti in 1987, Partners In Health today reaches 7 million people around the world and employs 18,000 people, including 15,000 local community health workers. Learn more about our work at www.pih.org. Support our efforts at donate.pih.org/give-today.
We go. We make house calls. We build health systems. We stay.