In the wake of the January 2010 earthquake that devastated poverty stricken Haiti, it was hit with a second disaster that October with an outbreak of a lethal strain of cholera that has never been seen in the Western Hemisphere. The source of the outbreak was easily and quickly traced to a UN peacekeepers from …
Aug 18 2016
May 26 2012
After the massive earthquake that struck Haiti on January 2010, the United Nations sent peace keeping troops from around the world to assist with keeping order during the recovery process, Unfortunately, some of those forces introduced a virulent strain of Cholera that was until October 2010 never seen in the Western Hemisphere. The faulty sanitation contaminated the Artibonite River, the longest and most important river in Haiti. The UN has refused to acknowledge its responsibility and has done little to help treat, prevent and control the disease.
The enormity of the epidemic is in the numbers that are increasing as this is written. Since October 2010, over 500,000 cases have been reported, including 7,000 deaths. In a New York Times Editorial on May 12, it was reported that this year’s toll could effect another 200,000 to 250,000 people:
Doctors Without Borders said this month that the country is unprepared for this spring’s expected resurgence of the disease. Nearly half the aid organizations that had been working in the rural Artibonite region, where this epidemic began and 20 percent of cases have been reported, have left, the organization said. “Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January.”
It gets worse: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report this month that cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.
While Haiti’s Ministry of Health and Populations claims to be in control of the situation, health facilities in many regions of the country remain incapable of responding to the seasonal fluctuations of the cholera epidemic. The surveillance system, which is supposed to monitor the situation and raise the alarm, is still dysfunctional, MSF said. The number of people treated by MSF alone in the capital, Port-au-Prince, has quadrupled in less than a month, reaching 1,600 cases in April. The organization has increased treatment capacity in the city and in the town of Léogâne, and is preparing to open additional treatment sites in the country. Nearly 200,000 cholera cases were reported during the rainy season last year, between May and October. [..]
An MSF study in the Artibonite region, where approximately 20 percent of cholera cases have been reported, has revealed a clear reduction of cholera prevention measures since 2011. More than half of the organizations working in the region last year are now gone. Additionally, health centers are short of drugs and some staff have not been paid since January. [..]
The majority of Haitians do not have access to latrines, and obtaining clean water is a daily challenge. Of the half-million survivors of the January, 2010 earthquake who continue to live in camps, less than one third are provided with clean drinking water and only one percent recently received soap, according to a April 2012 investigation by Haiti’s National Directorate of Water Supply and Sanitation.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that the cost of adequate water and sanitation systems will run from $800 million to $1.1 billion. That money is available from funds that were pledged from other nations.
Awareness needs to be raised. The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a human rights group, has sued the United Nations on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims and there is a Congressional letter to US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice urging UN authorities to play a central role in addressing the epidemic.
The United Nations bears heavy responsibility for the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti-it has become widely accepted that UN troops introduced the disease into the country via the UN’s faulty sanitation system. Even a UN panel has conceded this point. Yet, the UN has done little to treat, prevent, and control the disease. Rep. John Conyers’ office is circulating a letter to Amb. Rice urging UN authorities to play a central role in addressing the ongoing cholera crisis in Haiti.
The effort to contain this epidemic needs support. There are lives to be saved.
Note: The photo by Frederik Matte is from the Doctors Without Borders web site of patients affected by cholera receive treatment at an MSF cholera treatment center in Port-au-Prince.
Nov 20 2010
From the Assciated Press…
Before last month, there had never been a confirmed case of cholera in Haiti.
In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said cholera was “extremely unlikely to occur” in Haiti. There were no cholera bacteria there.
Then it did. Even more surprisingly, it did not first appear in a major port, an earthquake tent camp or an area where foreigners are concentrated, but instead along the rural Artibonite River.
Speculation keeps returning to that river and a base home to 454 U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. They are perched on a babbling waterway called the Boukan Kanni, part of the Meille River that feeds into the Artibonite.
People living nearby have long complained about the stink in the back of the base and sewage in the river. Before the outbreak began they had stopped drinking from that section of the river, depending instead on a source farther up the mountain.
The CDC has said the strain of cholera in Haiti matches one found most prevalently in South Asia.
“It very much likely did come either with peacekeepers or other relief personnel,” said John Mekalanos, Harvard University microbiology chair. “I don’t see there is any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably accidental introduction of the organism occurred.”
Nov 12 2010
Haiti is in need of millions of dollars to combat the cholera epidemic, but the US is still holding back $1.15 billion in Aid that has already been appropriated. It’s time to tell your congress members to stop sitting on the wallet and get that money to Haiti, where it’s urgently needed.
AFP today reports on the need for $164 million in aid to combat the cholera epidemic in Haiti:
Nov 11 2010
nough. I’ve been writing for the past week, daily, because I’m concerned that the cholera outbreak in Haiti endangers the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and especially threatens the more than a million Haitians who are living in tents or under tarps in Port au Prince and elsewhere in the country.
This morning’s Miami Herald Editorial captures exactly what needs to be said in the US about this impending public health disaster:
Nov 10 2010
he news from Haiti continues to be simply awful. The cholera epidemic that started elsewhere has now reached the Haitian capital, Port Au Prince, where it threatens the 1.5 million people who were displaced by the recent earthquake. “Displaced” is a sanitary way of describing the squalor of terrible living conditions which only foster the spread of the disease.
The epidemic threatens the lives of people who suffered so much in the earthquake and who then survived the rain and flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas. Even before these natural disasters, Haiti was wracked by hunger, poor infrastructure, high infant mortality, short life span, poverty and disease. Now weakened people face the onslaught of a cholera epidemic.
Please make the jump.
Nov 09 2010
Oct 25 2010
Haiti, ravaged for centuries and suffering long before its enormous, destructive earthquake, now braces for a huge cholera epidemic. The cholera epidemic on Saturday had already killed more than 200 and there are more than 2600 reported cases. Today the news is still bad. The NY Times reports:
Diarrhea, while a common ailment here, is a symptom of cholera. And anxiety has been growing fiercely that the cholera epidemic, which began last week in the northwest of Haiti, will soon strike the earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.
Dec 05 2008
Zimbabwe is in a condition of complete collapse. Cholera is spreading because the government is out of money to pay for water purification. Over 500 people have died. Troops went on a rampage in Harare yesterday when they couldn’t get funds out of banks. People are starving.
Today, South Africa’s president is announcing a plan for South Africa to go into Zimbabwe to deal with the crisis.
President Kgalema Motlanthe’s cabinet will today unveil a plan for rescuing the country, which is buckling under the weight of a shattered economy, food shortages, a cholera outbreak and rioting soldiers.