Mission society targets Haitian cholera epidemic

Velia Dorce with her children stand outside their tent flooded by Hurricane Tomas. ACT Alliance members are supporting people during this new emergency. Arne Grieg Riisnaes/NCA/ACT

Velia Dorce with her children stand outside their tent flooded by Hurricane Tomas. ACT Alliance members are supporting people during this new emergency. (Arne Grieg Riisnaes/NCA/ACT)

by Keven Drews

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — A service organization affiliated with Lutheran–Church Canada (LCC) is calling for prayers in the midst of a Haitian cholera epidemic that has already claimed nearly 1,100 lives.

Rev. Dr. John Wilch, chairman of the Haiti Lutheran Mission Society, said his organization and two other U.S. partners have donated a total of US$14,000 to the Lutheran Church Haiti (LCH) – enough money to buy medicines for 7,000 to 8,000 people.

“It’s terrible,” said Wilch of the epidemic, “and it’s getting worse.”

Cholera is caused by the bacterium vibrio cholera. Once an individual consumes contaminated food or water, the bacterium incubates and produces an enterotoxin, which causes copious amounts of watery diarrhea, dehydration and even death. The already fragile health situation following the January earthquake intensified after Hurricane Tomas.

On October 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued its first Global Alert and Response (GAR) focused on Haiti’s cholera epidemic. At the time, the Haitian health ministry reported 3,342 confirmed cases, including 259 fatalities. But by November 14, those numbers had climbed dramatically to 1,065 deaths and 17,418 cumulative hospitalizations.

The Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti, reported its first cholera case November 17.

Wilch has spoken to Pastor Revenel Benoit, head of the LCH and reports the LCH used the funds – which include US$5,000 from the HLMS – to set up clinics in Gonaives and Poto and run a mobile clinic.

By Wednesday, November 17, those three clinics had treated 3,300 patients in just three days, said Wilch.

“The government was so impressed by what they are doing, that they contributed a truckload of serum against cholera, which may be enough to last them two months,” added Wilch. “Thus, with our donated funds, they will also employ three physicians and three nurses in each of the three clinics to treat more people.”

Wilch said the clinics are also providing spiritual counselling, and the LCH-operated radio and TV station is broadcasting information to Haitians on how they can protect themselves from cholera bacteria.

Several other Lutheran organizations are helping out, too.

Wilch said the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) has donated $10,000 for medicines, as well.

Meantime, ACT Alliance, an international organization composed of more than 100 churches and church-related organizations, reported November 11 that the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), through which Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) works, has been passing out information in a camp in Nerette, in the west of Haiti. The LWF has also distributed hygiene kits, soap and chlorine.

ACT Alliance reports Lutheran World Relief (LWR), the U.S. counterpart of CLWR, and its partners are tackling prevention efforts in three of Haiti’s 10 administrative departments: Centre, Nord and Nord-Ouest. LWR is also planning on distributing aqua tabs and helping schools acquire water filters.

Wilch said the cholera epidemic is so bad that two hospitals in Gonaives are overflowing and the government has announced 300 people will be buried in a common grave.

He said the HLMS will continue monitoring the situation. He asks LCC pastors and congregations to pray for comfort for the mourners, healing for the sick, and protection for the healthy.

Since the January 2010 Haitian earthquake, the HLMS has sent three, 12-metre-long containers packed with goods – including a small bulldozer, a large compressor, mattresses and clothing – to the devastated Caribbean nation. It has also raised about $60,000 to help the LCH rebuild 20 churches.

Posted By: Matthew Block
Posted On: November 18, 2010
Posted In: International News,

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