San Francisco-based physician and blogger Dr. Jan Gurley has visited Haiti twice since the January 12 earthquake to volunteer her services. Her second visit coincided with the cholera outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives and caused thousands more to be hospitalised since the first case appeared on October 19, 2010. “Cholera is a lethal infection of hurricane proportions,” writes Doc Gurley (as she's known in the blogosphere):
You can die in as little as 3 hours, with your entire body’s amount of fluid coming out as stool. Socially, in Haiti, I found in February that there was already tremendous stigma attached to diarrhea. Not that surprising, really, if you think about the realities of living in a parking lot without a toilet while surrounded by hundreds of other people. And now there are concerns that cholera may have been brought to Haiti by the very international workers who came to help. Besides the devastating toll on lives (with reports ranging from 200 to Russian reports of 500 dead from cholera), how much current, and potential, good-will could such an event destroy?
Doc Gurley looked around online for an instructional video on oral rehydration therapy (ORT) that she could leave with her Haitian colleagues and patients. A knowledge of ORT basics could save lives, as most deaths from cholera are in fact caused by dehydration. Doc Gurley reminds her readers that even in Haiti, video can be an effective tool for spreading information: “People there have cell phones and texts, and everyone has an email address. Aid workers have smart phones that can show videos, and people there, just like here, love to gather ’round and watch the tiny screen.”
When her online searches yielded nothing but a single Hausa-language video and a handful of others covertly advertising Gatorade-style electrolyte drinks, Doc Gurley got a few friends together and made the video below. It's mostly wordless, making it suitable for use in any country, and depicts how to make oral rehydration salts “using only things that a person living in a sheet city would have”, including PET water bottles and bottle caps:
4 caps sugar, 1 cap salt, 500ml clean water = life