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Published on: 12/10/2016

In 2010 Haiti was struggling with the aftermath of a massive earthquake. After this humanitarian crisis a cholera epidemic started. The disease has been present in Haiti ever since. Six years later, on the morning of 5 October 2016 hurricane Matthew hit Haiti. A few days later the storm abated and cholera flared up again. 

Humanitarian crisis as a trigger

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. Like other waterborne diseases, transmission is closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Therefore, provision of such facilities is essential to control transmission of cholera. In addition, safe oral vaccines can be used to push back the virus. However, vaccines should always be used in combination with improvements in water and sanitation.

A humanitarian crisis can lead to the disruption of water and sanitation systems, or displacement of populations to inadequate and overcrowded camps. These circumstances can increase the risk of cholera transmission when the cholera bacteria is present or introduced.

Lessons learned

While Haiti is working on its recovery, from 10-14 October the Water and Health Conference 2016 is taking place at the University of North Carolina (UNC). The conference considers drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resources in both the developing and developed worlds with a strong public health emphasis.

A half day meeting will be dedicated to enveloped viruses with WASH linkages, for example, ebola, zika and cholera. During this meeting experts, practitioners, decision makers and business innovators from around the world come together to discuss what has been learned from the past experience with outbreaks in an effort to prepare for the next crisis. The meeting will consider virus survival, virus detection, existing guidelines and tools for decision-making. 

Currently Akvo is developing the Caddisfly tool. A smartphone-based drinking water testing system which can lead to faster and better interventions and action. This tool will be very useful to detect contaminated water sources, which can cause waterborne disease. Read more about the recent tool developments of Akvo and the influence of the data revolution in the international development sector in the blog 'The data revolution in practice.'

The video below is produced by the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) and the Spanish Society of Humanitarian Medicine (SEMHU). It describes the WASH related challenges populations face after a humanitarian crisis, and the inverventions needed. The video includes the water and sanitation challenges Haiti faced after the earthquake in 2010.  



When a humanitarian crisis strikes, affected populations face very important WASH related challenges.












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