How bad is cholera now, as the rains begin?
Mimy Muisa Kambere, Public Health Promoter for Oxfam in Haiti says:
The current cholera outbreak in the Carrefour area is far worse than the one registered in November. At that time, there were a maximum of 900 reported cases of cholera per week. Now, over 300 new cases are registered every single day. However, the number of casualties is far lower than we saw in November as people are able to get help faster.
The first cases of this new outbreak originated in a community South of Port-au-Prince, in a mountainous area, near a river. This area lacks access to sanitary facilities and there is very little available drinking water. The arrival of the heavy rains last week facilitated the spread of the bacteria into the local water sources, which may have caused the spread of the bacteria.
HaitiLibre quotes Dr. Gabriel Timothée, Director General of the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), who says “There is a resurgence of cholera caused by runoff water of the rainy season, but also by a slackening in the observance of hygiene rules.”
That may be true, but how can the population observe “hygiene rules” when there is no soap, no clean water, and not enough chlorine to decontaminate water distribution systems.
Haiti Libre also takes Director General Timothée and the MSPP to task for under reporting the number of cholera cases, saying the MSPP is “not telling the whole truth to the people.”
OCHA supports the fact that the withdrawal of NGOs has created a serious gap.
The recent surge in new cholera cases reported in the commune of Thiotte (Southeast department) highlights the need for more vigilance in that area, particularly given the fact that the fatality rates in that department are still the highest, nationwide. With the effective or planned withdrawal of most international NGOs, the local health structures still do not have enough capacity to face the challenges of a sudden outbreak of new cholera cases, anticipated especially with the upcoming rainy season.
Since the beginning of the cholera epidemic in Haiti on October 19, 2010, 314,539 people were infected and treated, 168,492 people were hospitalized and 5,332 people died. This is according to the latest report from the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP). OCHA disputes this figure and puts the number of infections at 400,000.
How is this happening? Where is the evidence of reconstruction? There is a new report published by Haiti Grassroots Watch, and it offers a much clearer picture than the bits and pieces we get filtered through the whitewashing of aid agencies.
Two new investigations by Haiti Grassroots Watch and students from the Laboratoire de Journalisme at the State University of Haiti tried to figure out what is blocking the reconstruction of downtown, and why the Champ de Mars is still home to thousands of families. Journalists found a lack of transparency, lack of coordination, rivalry and sometimes even outright disagreement, in a context where no single authority seems to have a complete picture, or accept complete responsibility.
The results of the impasse or – at the very least – confusion? Thousands of families braving the rains, winds and cholera under tarps and infrahuman conditions, undisbursed funding, and a rubble-strewn downtown characterized by empty plots and dying businesses.
It is well past the time for the international community, in coordination with the new Haitian government of Michel Martelly, to get down to the business of protecting the living. As Regan offered, we need some colère, and a real desire to provide infrastructure in Haiti.
Note: Haiti Grassroots Watch is a partnership of AlterPresse, the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), the Network of Women Community Radio Broadcasters (REFRAKA) and the community radios of the Association of Haitian Community Media (AMEKA).
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