Dominican Republic: Taking Measures Against Cholera

There have been more than 270 deaths due to cholera in Haiti and around 3 thousand infected people. The outbreak, which started in Saint Marc, has been spreading to the capital city, Port-au-Prince, where the first case was confirmed. Experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) consider that it is just a matter of time before cholera reaches Dominican territory, and it is under these circumstances that the Public Health Ministry, welcoming the recommendations of the the aforementioned international organization, has endeavored into a series of actions to limit and control the spread of this sickness. An expert's opinion published by Duarte 101 [es]:

Jon Andrus, subdirector de la OPS, dijo que, si bien no se han confirmado casos en República Dominicana, su despacho espera que se produzcan, “porque esa frontera es muy porosa. Al hablar de la eliminación de cualquier enfermedad en La Española, necesitamos hablar de planes que incluyan la isla entera”.

Jon Andrus, sub-director of PAHO, said that so far there are no confirmed cases in the Dominican Republic, but his office expects them to appear, “because the border is very porous. When we talk about eliminating any sickness from Hispaniola we must talk about plans that include the whole island.”

One of the first steps taken by the Public Health Ministry was the activation of emergency commissions, especially those in border zones, where public hospitals and their personnel have been reinforced with the idea that they can respond adequately to eventual cholera cases originating in Haiti or Dominican soil. Also, the government established a preventive and collaborative sanitary cord in the border with Haiti which encompasses the delivery to this country of many tons of chlorine to purify the water and also the dissemination of basic information about cholera in English and Creole, along with radio spots in both languages. The brochure that has been being distributed in the border starts with the question “What is cholera?” (“Kisa kolera -a ye?” in Creole) and mentions the main symptoms, the causes and the best way to prevent the sickness.

Border between Haiti and Dominican Republic. Photo by Inside Disaster.*

Other measure taken by the Dominican authorities was the temporary closing of the bi-national market, which was a motive for protests in Haiti, where confusion about the sanitary situation reigns. Rull Fernández, of Duarte 101 [es], has echoed this situation publishing declarations by doctor Anggie Serrano, who expressed surprise about the apparent disinformation of Haitians:

Lo que sí nos sorprende es que ellos se preguntan por qué tantos chequeos y porqué la suspensión del mercado. Nosotros entonces les decimos que han muerto muchos por el cólera y alegan que no saben nada de eso. Tal parece que estas personas no tienen acceso a la información.

What does surprise us is that they ask us why are there so many checks and why the suspension of the market. We tell them that many people have died of cholera and they claim that they do not know anything about that. It looks like these people do not have access to the information.

The reaction that Serrano describes refers to the cautionary measures taken around the border, where at the moment incoming cooked foods from Haiti are prohibited and the passage of Haitians has been restricted to those that show visas and are willing to submit to health checks taking place at the border, where one of the first demands is that hands be washed.

The sanitary situation in Haiti has been gradually worsening since the 12th of January this year, when an earthquake with an intensity of 7.0 in the Richter scale devastated the capital, killing more than 300 thousand people, and submerged the nation in a profound state of emergency. Despite the funds promised by the international community and multiple meetings on the subject, Haiti still has not received this help, with the consequence that those who lost their houses are still living in improvised refuges where overcrowding and lack of hygiene reign. These two causes have contributed to the apparition of this cholera outbreak.

In view of the protests for the closing on the bi-national market, the Public Health Ministry reaffirmed yesterday that this was a temporary measure and that for the moment it is authorized to reopen, as long as the hygiene measures and controls established by the authorities are strictly followed.

Even when at the moment the first case of cholera in the Dominican territory has not been detected, the measures continues to be reinforced and the population is taking the situation very seriously. Al [es] informs via Twitter that the precautionary measures are being extended to the touristic areas, while Elaine Nivar [es] makes a call to all Dominicans to be alert and take precautions. Julissa María [es] asks to pray for those sick of cholera in Haiti, where forecasts are not encouraging [es]: according to the World Health Organization (WHO) cholera has not reached its peak point in Haiti, and it will be difficult to erradicate.

*Photo from the album Inside Disaster in Flickr. Republished under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 License.


  • […] Tomas, which got the region's attention as a Tropical Storm before being upgraded to a Category 2 Hurricane as it whipped its way across the windward islands, has been downgraded. It is now back to its original status as it heads towards Haiti. The system still poses a peripheral threat to neighbouring islands like Jamaica, but Caribbean bloggers are hoping that Haiti will be spared any further devastation; the country is still grappling with the fallout from the January 12 earthquake as well as a recent cholera outbreak. […]

  • I`ve been getting many emails and calls from tourists willing to know what the situation is like in the DR, the reality is that the disease has only affected 20+ cases out of 8 million people and all the affected ones are from the poorest spots where education and sanitary conditions are scarce. Anyway, even with no cholera tourists and locals always drink bottled water, and hotels and households use treated water for bathrooms and cleaning. The chances of getting cholera will only be present if you venture to border areas closer to Haiti, and no tourist ever does that unless you`re the UN staff.

    I`m right now in the North coast, working Sosua, Cabarete, Cofresi, Costambar, Puerto Plata and Rio San Juan and there`s not a single case of cholera. Life goes on as usual, beaches are beautiful and the DR government is controlling the situation as far as we can see. Haitians must understand that if we don`t take the measures as we`re doing it, our economy will suffer and we won`t be able to help them as much as we`ve been doing it for a long time, longer than people ever thought of.

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