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Global NGO mobilizes U.S. doctors and nurses for hospital impacted by spike in cholera cases

Millwood, Virginia, June 24, 2011

Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, is acting immediately to address a resurgence of cholera in Haiti by deploying more than  20 medical volunteers to the hard hit Artibonite Valley to care for people afflicted with the illness and implement a preventative care strategy.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced that hospitalizations from cholera increased from an average of 1,700 to 2,600 per week in the past month, with some deaths reported.  While the outbreak is occurring nationwide, areas with particularly high numbers of patients include the Artibonite Valley, in central Haiti, and the capital city, Port-au-Prince.  Experts say last year, more than 320,000 people fell seriously ill and more 5,330 died from the cholera outbreak.

Project HOPE is deploying more than 20 health care professionals over the next nine weeks to Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS), a 100-bed hospital in Deschapelles, deep in the Artibonite Valley, where the initial cholera epidemic was first reported in 2010.  HOPE has supplied medicines, medical equipment and volunteer health professionals to HAS since shortly after the January 2010 earthquake and during the initial cholera outbreak last October.

The first rotation of seven volunteers will arrive in Haiti this Sunday, June 26. Members of the first rotation will join HOPE volunteer, Kerry Quealy, a registered nurse, who was deployed last week from Massachusetts General Hospital, a long-time HOPE partner.

Each three-week rotation of Project HOPE volunteers is comprised of two medical doctors and five nurses, who will care for patients and train local health care professionals on the diagnosis and treatment of cholera patients and the prevention of cholera among hospital staff. 

“It’s imperative we act quickly to handle the needs of the Haitian people and assist our partner, Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, in dealing with this massive resurgence of cholera. Our volunteers will augment the HAS staff and facilitate faster diagnosis and treatment of cholera casualties, as well as continue HOPE’s efforts started in 2010 to build health capacity by training health personnel at health facilities about oral and IV hydration, monitoring the disease, use of antibiotics and the prevention of cholera,” said Frederick Gerber, Director of Special Projects at Project HOPE.

As the rainy season returns to Haiti, the officials at HAS requested medicines to cope with the resurgence of cholera, the bacterial disease that is spread from person-to-person through fecal contaminated food and water.   The possibility of more flooding and mudslides pose a heightened risk for displaced people living in tent cities since the earthquake.   

Project HOPE is gathering donated medicines and medical supplies from corporate partners that have been requested specifically to deal with the outbreak. Medicines and medical supplies include  antibiotics, IV starter sets, needles, catheters, oral rehydration solution, gloves, and hand and surface sanitizers.  

Before the devastating earthquake last year, no cases of cholera had been reported in Haiti for more than a century.  Project HOPE supported HAS during the 2010 cholera epidemic and facilitated the deployment of staff from the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), the world’s foremost authority on cholera, its diagnosis, treatment and prevention. 

The ICDDR,B was the first team to positively identify the cholera strain, and determine which antibiotic would be most effective in the treatment of the strain.  In addition, ICDDR,B and HOPE initiated Haiti’s  first training of health care trainers at ten clinic and hospital sites, which resulted in the training of more  632 clinicians in the country’s top five Departments (geographical provinces) severely impacted by cholera.

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Heath Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 36 countries across five continents.

Media Contact

Geraldine Carroll  Tel. 540.257.3746  gcarroll@projecthope.org

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