Mom Keeps Family Healthy During Cholera Outbreak

In October 2010, a cholera epidemic spread through Haiti killing 3,300 and infecting more than 30,000 people. The island’s capital of Port-au-Prince, devastated by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake 10 months earlier, still lay in ruins with broken sewage lines, water pipes, buildings and roads.

Having no prior exposure to cholera, Haitians feared the disease.  People didn’t know how to recognize symptoms or how the disease was spread.  But through groups of women trained by Food for the Hungry (FH), mothers learned how to prevent and treat cholera.

 When cholera struck in October, Port-au-Prince still lay in ruins with broken sewage lines and water pipes.

Washing Hands

In Siloe, a semi-urban community near Port-au-Prince, FH worked with Jean Mesidor to help educate her community about cholera. Jean, a 35-year-old, wife and mother joined one of these small groups, also known as care groups, several months after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake.  Jean and 12 other women attended weekly meetings to learn about health and hygiene.

“My kids got sick after the earthquake with headaches and stomach trouble,” says Jean. “We spent a lot of money trying to help them, but now they are healthy and staying healthy.”

She says her children’s health changed after the family started using a tippy tap. A tippy tap is a hand-washing station made up of string and a plastic bottle filled with water and chloride tablets.  Jean learned to build a tippy tap in her care group. Now her family uses the tippy tap to kill bacteria on their hands.

Through the care groups, Jean also learned about how to prevent and treat cholera. “I’ve learned a lot about preparing food and rehydration solution,” says Jean.

 Jean Mesidor demonstrates her household “tippy tap,” a hand-washing station made up of string and a plastic bottle filled with water and chloride tablets.  Jean and her family are preventing the spread of cholera and other diseases by using the tippy tap, which FH introduced to the community through care groups.

Mothers Leading Health Education

In care groups, one woman teaches 12 women. Those 12 women serve as teachers and find 12 additional women to educate. Information can be transferred quickly to a community through care groups. Jean taught her neighbors and extended family about how to prevent cholera.

As Jean and her family remain in good health, Jean is excited to start a small shop in front of her house to sell goods to earn a living. Even though she experiences struggles, she believes God will take care of her and her family. “Even though I don’t know what we will eat tomorrow, God will always provide,” says Jean.

She says she wants to learn all she can learn about health, business and God, and to teach others what she learns.


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About Renee Targos

Renee is a former journalist and editor for national arts and business publications. As a writer for Food for the Hungry, Renee explores and reports on the work and relationships of partners, FH staff and impoverished communities.

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