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Direct Relief Shipping Aid to Fight Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

The nonprofit is busy coordinating distribution of much-needed medical supplies

Standing among dozens of crates full of supplies inside a vast Goleta warehouse, Andrew MacCalla is on the phone, coordinating the crates’ arrival and distribution to people who desperately need the contents.

MacCalla, the Haiti program operations specialist for Direct Relief International, is pushing for the shipments and their precious cargo to move out as soon as possible. That’s because the freight, full of rehydration fluid and sterile medical supplies, will help save the lives of those suffering from a cholera outbreak in Haiti. The illness, which begins when contaminated drinking water is consumed, leads to vomiting, diarrhea and rapid dehydration, and can be fatal.

At least 253 people have died from the outbreak, and more than 3,000 people have confirmed cases of the disease as Monday. The outbreak has been mostly contained to a rural area of the country, but officials have worried that if it spreads to crowded Port-au-Prince, where there is little infrastructure even months after the earthquake, it could be devastating. Hospital Albert Schweitzer and Partners in Health in the Artibonite region, where the epidemic is concentrated, and St. Damien Hospital in Port-au-Prince have requested aid from the group.

The needs are simple but crucial: water, saline and soap.

“The biggest needs are for supplies,” said MacCalla, who will return to Haiti next week. He added that many of the doctors, nurses and volunteers needed were still in the country from the earthquake.

The relief group is using funds initially sent in for long-term rebuilding and recovery after the earthquake earlier this year. But with a potential epidemic on the horizon, DRI is allotting $250,000 to help with the outbreak. After that, MacCalla said, it will evaluate and see what needs remain. The organization already has sent seven freight containers, which are in the country’s port, and MacCalla expects those will be distributed sometime this week.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency,” said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief’s president and chief executive officer. Orchestrating what’s needed, and the logistics of getting it there, and distribution has kept the staff busy. The group already had sent some cargo before the outbreak, much of which can be used for cholera problems. Because the organization was so active in delivering aid after the Haitian earthquake, many of the relationships needed to distribute the aid easily are already in place.

Click here to view an interactive map of where the group has distributed aid in Haiti. Click here to donate to Direct Relief’s ongoing efforts in Haiti.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @laraanncooper or @NoozhawkNews.

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