A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Over the weekend Oxfam began chlorinating water for 300,000 people in a slum area of Cap Haitien. Recent violence spread across the city and Oxfam had to stop those activities. Other activities that have ceased are distributions of soap, water tablets and oral rehydration salts. Perhaps the most important activity that Oxfam had to stop is our massive public education campaign – through radio messages – to inform people about the basic good hygiene that will keep them safe.
Julie Schindall, spokesperson for Oxfam in Haiti said:
“The violence is delaying our cholera response in Cap Haitien. We’re obviously frustrated by it and worried for the people that desperately need clean water. Treating and preventing cholera is straightforward, but it requires a fast response. We are now looking at a 48 hour delay in bringing people aid.
“The faster we’ll be able to do our work, the less likely the outbreak is to spread. It would not be surprising to see a rise in cases because of the delay.
“Roads are blocked with protestors and burning tires, and we physically can't get to our work sites, especially with trucks carrying crucial supplies like soap, water tablets or rehydration salts. Blocked roads means we can't get out there and educate people about how to treat themselves at home for cholera. This is also keeping people from accessing health clinics or hospitals.
“We have told our staff, most of whom are Haitian and live in Cap Haitien, to stay at home while our operations are suspended. The few international staffers have been told to stay at the office for now.”