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Rapid response teams: a real rampart against cholera

A rapid response team in the Department of Centre

The numbers of cholera cases have significantly reduced in 2017. They have never been so low. The new Cholera strategy has paid off. At the center of attention are the rapid response teams, who are true warriors. The members will fight cholera in the targeted departments, in good weather or rainy weather. Mainly in the department of Centre (Plateau Central), where the distances to be covered are sometimes immense. UNICEF is one of the key players in the fight against cholera in the country.

Mirebalais, November 23, 2017-The all-terrain car is rolling on the rocks, the road is not good. It is necessary to zigzag between the crevasses, to avoid the mud. It rained last night, but conditions are acceptable to reach Menaj, a locality close to the town of Laschaobas (Centre).

ACTED’s rapid response team, UNICEF’s partner, with their recognizable green T-shirts from several meters, is on the warpath. They come to conduct an awareness session. But the community is quiet because today is market day. However, there are still people who will be able to listen to messages and receive hygiene kits if it’s needed.

A member of the team with a loudspeaker has already broken off to bring together the people who are present. In the empty valley, his voice is echoed. He managed to gather about twenty women and a few children. Men are in the fields.

Important to continue awareness

A sensitization session

The team begins to raise awareness about hygiene. Today, the team is there for a reinforcement of awareness. It usually takes place after the distribution of hygiene kits. These kits contain soap, oral rehydration serum, and aquatabs (chlorine tablets) and a pail with a robinet.

“You have to wash your hands in crucial moments, before eating and after getting out of the toilet. Use treated water for your health and that of your children’’. After these messages, the team asks the residents who do not live too far to bring the water they use to test the chlorine residual, to check if they have followed the instructions.

The activities of rapid response teams consist of three parts: investigation, response, awareness. “Regarding the situation for the Lower Plateau, it’s pretty quiet because we went from 38 cases per week to 14 cases and for the moment it’s only 7 cases,” says Jennyfer Joseph, cholera project manager for the Lower – Central tray.

To travel long distances

One of the biggest challenges for rapid response teams is returning to the long distances they must travel to reach remote locations. Sometimes it can take hours or even days. Because they must sleep on the way, to continue their activities and to make sure that everyone is sensitized to the principles of hygiene.

“In some mountainous places, even mules cannot pass, but we have to go if there are cases of cholera. It’s part of our mission. Sometimes we do missions of several days in these localities to reach everyone, “recalls Nadia Delmond, emergency team leader for Acted, recalling that the reception of people is always positive.