[News] Report on Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 29 12:46:55 EDT 2010


Cholera has killed over 300 people in the valley along Haiti's 
Artibonite River, a rural region north of Haiti's capital; another 
4,700 people have been sickened.  The acute diarrheal disease is a 
bacterial infection of the intestine which spreads when food or water 
become contaminated with human waste containing the cholera organism. 
Cholera causes profuse, watery, high volume diarrhea that is rapidly 
dehydrating. The infection can be fatal to young children, the 
elderly, and the undernourished. Without immediate medical treatment, 
people can die of dehydration.

UN officials are investigating sewage draining into a tributary of 
the Artibonite River from a Nepalese base of UN (MINUSTAH) troops as 
a possible source of the deadly outbreak. Al Jazeera reports that the 
unit moved into the area in mid-October.


Cholera is a disease of poverty caused by lack of access to safe, 
clean water. The Lower Artibonite, once Haiti's rice farming region, 
was hit hard economically by competition from cheap US rice after 
lowered rice import tariffs were imposed on Haiti beginning in the mid-1980s.

Haiti has not had a documented case of cholera since the 1960s, but 
conditions in the lower Artibonite placed the region at high-risk for 
an outbreak of cholera even before the earthquake, according to Dr. 
Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer for Partners in Health.


In 2008, Partners in Health working with Robert Kennedy Center for 
Human Rights documented that in 2000 the Bush Administration blocked 
vital life-saving loans for water, sanitation and health from the 
Inter American Development Bank to the progressive government of 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This deliberate political maneuver 
to undermine Haiti's democratic government had a direct impact on the 
city of St. Marc (population 220,000) and region of the lower 
Artibonite (population 600,000), among the areas slated for upgrading 
of the public water supply, depriving the people of their right to safe water.

Meanwhile, health authorities warn that while the outbreak remains 
concentrated in the Lower Artibonite region, it is inevitable that 
there will be some cases of cholera in Port-au-Prince. Five cases 
have already been reported in the city among people who had traveled 
there from the affected rural areas.


Conditions in the capital's densely populated refugee camps could 
readily spawn a widespread cholera epidemic, as families interviewed 
recently by human rights groups have exposed critical shortages of 
clean water, sanitation, food and proper shelter. An Al Jazeera 
report this week featured video footage of 18 neglected latrines for 
3,500 people. Four latrines in Accra Camp, where 17,000 people 
reside, are so filthy no one will use them.  Children play in dirt 
muddied from rain. Clean water is only available to those who can 
purchase it; many camp residents have complained that Red Cross water 
makes them sick.

1.3 million Haitians living in the vast "tent" cities of 
Port-au-Prince are in the path of a rapidly progressive illness whose 
potential was identified in the immediate aftermath of the 
earthquake. Yet ten months later, with millions of dollars in donated 
aid relief, the proper infrastructure to provide safe living 
conditions in the refugee camps is utterly lacking. The rights of 
Haitian people to internationally mandated standards for displaced 
persons have been profoundly violated.


In the short term, health workers and community activists are 
mobilizing to carry out intensive education and prevention campaigns 
to control the spread of cholera, and get clean water to the camps.
The fundamental issue, however, remains the political crisis which 
denies Haiti democracy and human rights, and underlies persistent 
impoverishment of Haiti's people. As long as the predatory agenda of 
the United States, foreign and elite interests prevails in Haiti, the 
rights of the vast majority of Haitians are threatened. It is time to 
listen to the voices of Haiti's popular movement calling for an end 
to the UN military occupation, now entering its 7th year. It is time 
to demand free and fair elections that include Haiti's largest 
political party, Fanmi Lavalas, and time to heed the widespread call 
for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

For latest news, see Haiti Action Committee on FACEBOOK and at 
<http://www.haitisolidarity.net/>www.haitisolidarity.net and 

Cholera Outbreak Highlights Clean Water Crisis

Submitted by CHAN on October 28, 2010 - 20:00

By Ansel Herz, <http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53320>IPS News Service
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct 28 (IPS) - The man arrived from Arcahaie, near 
St. Marc in central Haiti where a cholera outbreak exploded last 
week, initially overwhelming the local medical grid. It was an hour's 
journey to a hospital in Lafiteau, near the capital, where he died on Sunday.

"We tried to give him some liquids but it was too late," Dr. Pierre 
Duval told IPS. He said it was the second cholera death in three 
days. Five other patients who arrived from the epidemic zone showed 
the same symptoms: profuse liquid diarrhea and vomiting.

They looked gaunt and sickly on beds inside the tiny hospital's dimly 
lit patient ward, taking up one of its three rooms. Family members 
said they had bathed and eaten, then fallen gravely ill.

The two patients who died in Lafiteau are not counted among the 303 
officially-recognised cholera deaths in Haiti. A United Nations 
spokesperson said they were not "confirmed" cases of cholera because 
they occurred outside the epidemic zone and lab tests had not 
confirmed the presence of cholera bacteria.

Dr. Duval said no officials or medical teams had visited his hospital 
since the outbreak began.

"The mission is preparing for a nationwide cholera outbreak," the 
U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 
spokesperson Jessica DuPlessis told IPS, before adding, "I'm sure 
there are gaps in the response at this point in time."

Haitian and U.N. officials are citing a dwindling number of new 
fatalities each day as an indication that the cholera outbreak is 
"leveling off" and "stabilised" in central Haiti, while saying the 
peak of the epidemic is still to come.

"Affected zones are increasing. More capacities for implementation 
and coordination are needed" in central Haiti, according to a 
situation report by the St. Marc sanitation cluster of humanitarian 
groups. A video report by Al Jazeera English showed human waste from 
toilets at a Nepalese U.N. peacekeeping base running off into the 
river in Mirebalais, where there are over 50 confirmed cholera cases.

On Wednesday, a medical clinic operated by the charity group 
Samaritan's Purse in Cite Soleil reported treating a patient for 
"rice water diarrhea" and vomiting. The clinic's physician believes 
it to be cholera, according to an alert on the Haiti Epidemic 
Advisory System, an independent biosurveillance network.

The patient did not come from Haiti's central region, where the 
epidemic broke out, unlike the five cholera cases in the capital 
already confirmed by authorities. Cite Soleil is an impoverished slum 
on Port-au-Prince's northern tip, a 30- minute drive from Lafiteau. 
There are 20 cases in the capital under investigation, a Tuesday U.N. 
logistics cluster report says.

Humanitarian groups say they are promoting hygiene and educating the 
capital's populace about cholera, which can spread easily through 
contaminated water and food. Some groups distributed soap in tent 
camps where 1.3 million people still live exposed to the elements 
nine months after the January earthquake.

"Some of them do nothing because of lack of funding," according to an 
internal overview of humanitarian activities by the water and 
sanitation cluster.

Charpon Davidson, 22, received soap from Catholic Relief Services 
(CRS) at Camp Carradeux, where at least 20,000 people live in tents 
and makeshift tarps. "They can't just give us soap as a solution. 
There are a lot of people already carrying the disease," he said.

"If we can't drink treated water, then we'll never have a solution to 
this sickness," Davidson told IPS. "Because where the problem 
started, in Artibonite, it's water - water that people take, they 
drink, they eat - where the disease started." Another woman asked the 
reporter if cholera was a natural disease or a poison from outside the country.

Camp Carradeux was battered weeks ago by a fierce storm that 
destroyed an estimated 10,000 tents. A walk-through of the lower camp 
showed that most families who lost tents, but not all, had received 
new ones. A few were given tiny backpacking tents that stand barely 
three feet off the ground.

A chain-link fence was recently erected around an area in the camp 
where CRS plans to build 650 one-room structures called transitional shelters.

Down the road from Carradeux, a gate with a white Catholic Relief 
Services sticker faces the street. Inside is a sloped area crammed 
with about 300 families living under fraying tents and tarps, with a 
driveway in the middle running up to a second CRS-stickered barrier.

The camp is on the property of Catholic Relief Services just outside 
its materials depot. Humanitarian goods pass by the camp every day, 
but its residents have no water supply because their plastic water 
tanks are empty - just like a camp in Cite Soleil that IPS described 
in a previous report.

"We're inside the depot of CRS. Now, we're told to wash our hands 
before eating. The epidemic is present. CRS said they'd help us. They 
said that," said Jacques Pierre, the camp's committee leader.

In August, the camp's three pit toilets were full of human waste. At 
the time, Jacques told IPS his request for a functioning set of 
toilets was met with threats from CRS personnel to force them off the 
property. But after another aid group put pressure on CRS, 
construction began. They now have four working toilets.

"They started to do some small things, but actually what's necessary 
for us is water," Pierre said. "That's what is most important for us 
and for kids with diarrhea. The epidemic is becoming grave now, it 
may be just starting. So we need potable water to drink as well as 
food - these are most important for us."

Asked if any organisation had come to educate them about cholera, 
Pierre replied, "No, we haven't seen any group come here and say 
anything to us. We've been ignored here in this space."

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported in July that Catholic Relief 
Services had spent $30 million out of $140 million raised for 
earthquake relief in Haiti. Some $21 million came from the United 
States Agency for International Development (USAID), designated 
specifically for water and sanitation services in Port-au-Prince's 
displacement camps.

A senior member of another relief group, who requested anonymity, 
told IPS that CRS does not intend to install water purification 
systems in the camps until next year. "That seems like a long time 
for someone living in the camps," the aid worker said.

The water and sanitation coordinator for CRS confirmed it has no 
plans to install water purification systems in camps at this time, 
but is delivering extra-chlorinated water to some camps by truck. A 
joint report in September by the City University of New York's Haiti 
Initiative and Haiti's Faculty of Ethnology found that 40 percent of 
camps don't have access to water and 30 percent have no toilets.

But it's not just Port-au-Prince's makeshift camps that urgently need 
water. The percentage of the population without access to safe 
drinking water increased by seven percent from 1990 to 2005, 
according to a 2008 report by Partners In Health, a medical 
organisation currently responding to the cholera outbreak in Haiti's 
central region.

"Combined with unsanitary conditions, the lack of water is a major 
factor in exacerbating Haiti's health crises," the report notes.

The Interim Reconstruction Commission of Haiti has approved only one 
water and sanitation project, designed to expand the public water 
supply in Port-au-Prince. It would cost $200 million over five years, 
but is only 57 percent funded by international donors at this time.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20101029/b7a1b7e6/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list