HAITI – After more than 3 years with no reported cases of cholera in Haiti, the Caribbean country has seen a resurgence of cholera outbreak, with 64 confirmed cases and 39 fatalities having been reported by the national authorities so far.
The current cholera outbreak is endemic in Port-au-Prince and Cité Soleil. These are areas that are experiencing civil unrest with several thousand people having been displaced as a result of the increase in violence.
The looming new public health crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time amid mounting insecurity and an economic crisis.
Protests against the government, now in their seventh week, have paralyzed the country, with schools, businesses, and public transportation mostly closed across the country.
Haitians have been protesting chronic gang violence, poverty, food insecurity, inflation, and fuel shortages since August 22.
The country’s hospital system is currently without fuel. Several hospitals have recently announced that they will be forced to close or reduce services due to a lack of electricity from fuel-powered generators.
Cholera is an illness caused by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. It can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, thirst, and other symptoms, and it spreads quickly in areas lacking adequate sewage treatment and safe drinking water.
Haiti last reported a cholera case more than three years ago, following a 2010 outbreak linked to UN peacekeepers that resulted in approximately 10,000 deaths and over 820,000 infections.
This outbreak was linked to a sewage leak from a UN peacekeeping base, resulting in widespread condemnation and public distrust of the international organization in Haiti. In 2016, the UN apologized for its role in the epidemic.
At a press conference in Geneva, Dr. Tedros pointed to poverty, conflict, and climate change as the factors fueling the current cholera outbreak in the world.
According to the Director General, “the average number of fatalities so far this year is almost three times that of the last five years.”
In this regard, Tedros brought up the alarming situation in Syria and Haiti. Syria has reported more than 10 000 suspected cases of cholera in the last six weeks.
International aid efforts intensify
As international aid efforts intensify, the WHO announced this week that it will assist local partners in distributing equipment such as tents for treatment centers.
Christian Lindmeier, the organization’s spokesperson, told reporters that the organization was also requesting cholera vaccines for Haiti.
Although vaccines exist and symptoms can be “easily treated,” according to the World Health Organization, cholera remains an insidious killer through dehydration in the developing world.
Meanwhile, Haitian authorities have urged residents suffering from acute diarrhea to seek medical attention, and UNICEF has stated that it is assisting the government with supplies such as 755,000 water purification tablets and 28,230 soap bars.
According to UNICEF, a chlorine order has also been placed to help Haiti’s water and sanitation agency “in chlorinating the water in Port-au-Prince, disinfect affected households, and supply health centers in affected areas.”
Meanwhile, WHO continues to appeal for greater international support for Pakistan, in the wake of the devastating flooding brought on by monsoon rains.
Tedros recalled his recent warning that many more could die from the disease than from the disaster.
“There is now a malaria outbreak in 32 districts, while the incidence of cholera, dengue, measles and diphtheria is also increasing in flood-affected districts. We expect the situation to continue to deteriorate,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to support Uganda as the Government there responds to a deadly Ebola outbreak, agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his weekly press conference on global health challenges.
So far, 39 people have died, he reported. Overall, there have been 64 confirmed cases, and 20 probable cases, while 14 people have recovered from the disease.
Authorities are conducting active follow-up of more than 660 contacts.
On the global Monkeypox outbreak, declared an international public health emergency by WHO, 70,000 cases have now been reported, with 26 deaths.
Cases continue to decline, but 21 countries in the past week, have reported an increase in cases, mostly in the Americas – which accounted for almost 90 percent of all cases reported in the past 7 days.