Ralph Ternier recalls a period in his career path as a physician that really tested his skills almost a decade ago. This was when cholera was discovered right after ten months from a devastating earthquake that took many lives and displaced even more (around 1 million).
“After the earthquake the whole country was on its knees,” Ternier stated. He spoke about how clueless everyone was about such a severe outbreak especially of a disease that hadn’t been faced before. He explained how it felt like ‘a thunderstorm’ in their medical world.
Ternier is presently leading the organization as one of the chief medical officers. Before he was a nonprofit partner in health director of community care and support.
How does cholera occur? Also known as a critical diarrheal illness, it occurs due to ingesting food or having bacteria contaminated water. Areas that suffer from inadequate water and sanitation amenities can also face the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Haiti witnessed 820,000 cases of cholera outbreak and 10,000 deaths.
Based on certain traditional beliefs, some Haitians were misinformed and started to blame the Vodou priests for causing the outbreak. Due to this reason at least 45 of these priests were lynched by mobs.
Ternier came across these cases and in order to educate the population on the disease, made his way to Cerca-la-Source, Haiti.
He explained how it was about understanding their beliefs to the core and then having conversations on cholera to show it wasn’t coming from spirits. Since he was a local doctor, they would be able to trust him better than any other.