Monday, November 15, 2010

How soap could help to stop the spread of cholera

In combating the spread of cholera in Haiti, a simple bar of soap could help to stop an infection. Yet many people who live in poverty cannot afford to purchase the soap, as they opt for food instead. The Washington Post says that UNICEF has brought in over 100,000 bars of soap to the 500 orphanages in Haiti.

Post Writer William Booth tells us how one simple household item is going underused in the country.

A cake of yellow Haitian soap costs about 50 cents. But many Haitians do not have soap, because they cannot it afford it. More than half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

"They buy food instead," said Gaelle Fohr, a coordinator for hygiene programs in Haiti for the U.N. Children's Fund.

"We borrow, we buy, but right now, we don't have any soap in the house, I am sorry to say," said Joceline Jeune, living with three children in a hillside shanty at the edge of a displaced persons camp, as a gutter filled with greasy gray water flowed inches from her front door.

When confronted by dubious toilets or flyspecked markets, people here daily use the expression, "mikwob pa touye ayisyen," which translates "germs don't kill Haitians."

"As hard as it is to believe, Haiti still needs soap. They have many needs, but soap - and access to clean water - is absolutely essential to fight cholera," said Nigel Fisher, the top U.N. humanitarian coordinator, in an interview.

There are plans for more water trucks, and more chlorine in water tanks, wells, and distribution points. But building a modern water and sanitation system will take years. By contrast, experts say, soap is fast and doable, allowing people to clean their hands and food that has been exposed to dirty cholera-tainted water.

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