Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cholera - Fast, Deadly and Unnecessary

Our day began with a bumpy drive over the mud filled roads that lead to a rural school. It was at this school where I would walk up on a logistical masterpiece in the making. The deadly disease of Cholera was about to take a big step backwards today.

As we walked into the school chapel, we were greeted by a sea of mostly women who were all wearing their Water With Blessings T-Shirts. Our host began explaining the vision of eradicating Cholera in Haiti where these Haitian Women would become Heroes in this area of Haiti where Cholera has once again reared its ugly head.

As our host began to introduce the team, I could see these women were grouped into clumps of 3 or 4 and they were all from different villages and communities in the surrounding area. Then it dawned on me. These were not Water Women who would receive water filters today. These were Water Women trainers who were about to be mobilized into their own communities to distribute life saving water filters. These 15 sets of trainers would impact thousands of families, and they were all volunteers! It's amazing what a lean staff can do to have such an incredible impact! In one brief encounter, I could see once again that eradicating water borne sickness was not being hindered by logistics, but simply by funding from generous people who want to solve real problems in the world.

From this school we traveled to what would be the most impactful time of my trip. We made our way to the hospital where thousands of Cholera patients have been treated.

Upon arriving at the hospital, we were greeted by the Medical Director of the hospital who graciously offered to give us a tour of the Cholera ward. Even though Cholera is transmitted by ingesting contaminated water, the hospital had hygienic protocols in place for us to enter the building. We had to walk through a large plastic container that was lined with foam padding and soaked in a choline solution that would sanitize our shoes.

As we entered the first room, I was taken back by the beds in the Cholera ward. They were flat, narrow beds with a hole in the middle and a metal bucket underneath. I would learn that Cholera was so violent to the stomach that there is no time to get up to go to the bathroom. In the first room there was an elderly man and a middle aged woman who were being treated with IV fluids, the common treatment for Cholera.

The next room took made my heart sink. As we entered, we found a young mother holding her baby in her lap. Both of them had IV's attached to their arms and were being treated for Cholera. This baby was so precious and was one of the lucky ones who made it to the hospital.

We asked the doctor about the treatment for Cholera and he said it was quite simple...rehydration in most cases with IV's and low doses of antibiotics in severe cases. With such a simple treatment we all wondered why so many people die of Cholera, so we asked the doctor. His answer was troubling.

He told the story of many people that live in the rural areas of Haiti, some living 2 to 4 hours away from the nearest hospital. There are many stories of people going to work in the morning feeling fine, and by lunch time experiencing severe diarrhea. With the extreme loss of bodily fluids produced from Cholera, people literally die on the way to the hospital! We're talking about a few hours from the time a person feels bad to the time they die. I was shocked!

I thought about how terrible it would be to have rehydration as a simple cure for Cholera, only to live in the reality that there was no clean water to rehydrate with in the rural villages. For many, rehydrating means drinking more Cholera filled water, which produces a rapid spiral of death.

Why do I share these troubling details? Because water borne sickness is the number one killer in the world and it is SO UNNECESSARY.

I'm thankful and honored to work with Water With Blessings and their Water Women program. I look forward to hearing the stories how these real-life Water Women superheroes will change the country of Haiti!

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