Cholera in the Dominican Republic: The Outbreak and Response
March 7, 2012
Written by Alisha Kramer
The Dominican Republic reported its first cholera cases in November, 2010 – just two months after the initial outbreak in neighboring Haiti. Two years later, the Dominican Republic has recorded 21,432 cholera cases, 363 of which resulted in death. These numbers seem modest compared with the 522,335 cases and 7,001 deaths that have been recorded in Haiti; the higher quality of the Dominican Republic’s water and sanitation infrastructure and its responsiveness to the cholera outbreak are important reasons for the lower numbers.
The Dominican Republic’s response to the spread of cholera within its borders has been comprehensive. For example, the Dominican Red Cross (DRC) has partnered with organizations to initiate preparedness and response programs to reduce the risk of cholera through the provision of safe water; the improvement of sanitation conditions; the implementation of a comprehensive health approach; and the launch of web-based and SMS campaigns focused on awareness and prevention. As a result of these programs, the DRC has reached 54,500 people with cholera prevention and response training and 1.9 million people with epidemic control messages. In addition, the DRC has pre-positioned 28 water plants around the country to enhance emergency responses; carried out disinfection spraying of houses and health facilities with confirmed cholera cases; and coordinated with the Haitian Red Cross to deliver 50,000 oral rehydration salts (ORS) sachets for training and treatment. Also of note are the DRC’s psychosocial outreach activities: puppet shows and a rap song with cholera prevention messages. In conjunction with the SMS and web-based campaigns, these efforts that aim to increase cholera awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding the disease have reached millions of people.
In the recent “Call to Action: A Cholera‐Free Hispaniola,” the government of the Dominican Republic partnered with the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Haitian government to continue to work towards eliminating cholera. The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Health, headed by Bautista Rojas Gómez, has been internationally recognized for its efforts to manage the cholera outbreak. In response to the Call to Action, Rojas Gómez added his support to confirm that the Ministry would continue to reinforce the diverse components of the cholera elimination strategy.