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Haiti: saving lives by washing hands

“Bonjou dlo! Bonjou savon! Orevwa mikrob!”  Hello water!  Hello soap!  Goodbye bacteria!  It’s a simple creole song that children in camps in Haiti learn to sing and see written on the toilets built by Save the Children.  It’s a straight forward message to understand, and underpins the singularly most important action that children can take to protect themselves from cholera – regular hand-washing.

Cholera is the deadly disease that is sweeping through Haiti – the number of cases has now reached 171,304 and taken the lives of 3,651 people. It seems the ultimate cruelty that families who have already lost and suffered so much, are now facing yet another giant threat.  Aid agencies like Save the Children are making sure that they’re not on their own.

Yesterday, I walked through a camp called Delmas 56.  It was cramped, crowded, dirty, and noisy. The tents are covered with plastic sheeting, bits of metal sheeting, and even cardboard. The ground was uneven and the spaces between tents were so narrow that moving through the camp was tricky.  But in amongst this chaos was a Save the Children cholera treatment unit.  Amazingly, in amongst all this was a centre that provides life-saving treatment for those suffering from cholera – a disease that is deadly if treatment isn’t sought quickly. This centre was incredibly clean, well organised and efficient – in the battle against cholera we can’t afford to slip on any standards.

And not far from this are hand washing stations located outside the toilets, all built by Save the Children.  It was there that I met Michelin, the woman whose job it is to carry the water to the station for hand-washing, and to clean out the toilets.  Around her were some children enthusiastically washing their hands – every now and then she would demonstrate hand-washing techniques for them.  Without a doubt, and without her realising it, she is one of many hidden but critical people on the front line with cholera helping to save lives everyday.

Find out more about our work in Haiti

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