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Cholera Outbreak Hits Port-au-Prince
Thursday, 11 November 2010
For decades, Haiti experienced no cholera. Now an epidemic threatens, as half of Haiti's 10 administrative regions have been hit. In a matter of weeks, it's "suspected of infecting tens of thousands of people...."
An November 9, Haiti Libre said city authorities examined at least 120 suspected cases, mostly in Cite Soleil, the extremely impoverished, densely populated community home to around 400,000. More vulnerable from Hurricane Tomas flooding, Partners in Health (PIH) called crowded camps "a potential flashpoint for a cholera outbreak. There is growing concern" about reported cases, thousands that may spread to many more.
In recent days, cases "continued to expand geographically. More (appeared) in Haiti's Central Plateau," PIH reporting 111 people hospitalized. Reported deaths also keep rising, likely much higher than Haiti's Health Ministry 544 figure on November 8. On November 9, Al Jazeera reported 583 deaths, the numbers increasing daily. The report also said:
Reporter Sebastian Walker said hospitals were overwhelmed, adding:
Given the familiar symptoms, however, including severe diarrhea, vomiting and fever, there's little doubt about the cause. Over 9,000 cases so far have been identified, mostly in the Artibonite area, north of Port-au-Prince.
PIH founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, currently UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti, called for an aggressive investigation into the outbreak's cause. However, since the January earthquake, aid from most governments, UN bodies, and most NGOs has been meager and inadequate, despite billions of dollars pledged or donated. Washington promised over $1 billion, delivered nothing. Shamefully, most funding is earmarked for development, not affected Haitians on their own to survive, even after Hurricane Tomas and the cholera outbreak.
Suspicions are that UN Blue Helmets introduced it, tests confirming it's a South Asia strain (Vibrio cholerae serogroup 01, serotpe Ogama), not regional. Nepalese Peacekeepers are based in Artibonite, site of the initial outbreak. It's also Haiti's main rice-growing area, raising suspicions of deliberate sabotage, creating a greater potential for US imports, already advantaged by huge subsidies able to undercut home-grown crops.
For decades, Haiti experienced no cholera. Now an epidemic threatens, ThirdAge.com saying since late October, half of Haiti's 10 administrative regions have been hit. In a matter of weeks, it's "suspected of infecting tens of thousands of people...." Tomas flooding forced an Artibonite River dam to release infected water, exacerbating the disease potential. [An earlier article provided more details.]
On November 9, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres - MSF) said it was treating increasing numbers of suspected cholera cases in Port-au-Prince - so far, over 200 people, "suffering from severe diarrhea, a clinical symptom consistent with cholera."
MSF has four Port-au-Prince facilities, but only about 300 beds set aside for cholera. In the Artibonite area, its teams have treated over 6,400 cases. Overall, however, it warns that the limited access to safe drinking water and sanitation services pose an enormous risk for further spread. A widespread epidemic is feared. Potentially it could kill many thousands.
On November 10, Haiti: Operational Biosurveillance (HOB) said:
Evidence also suggests that it spread cross border to the Dominican Republic, HOB calling it "expected." It's confirmed in multiple Haitian sites, including Port-au-Prince, the northwest, and southern peninsula. Transmission modes include contaminated food and water as well as human-to-human spread. Its presence in overcrowded Cite Soleil has "dire implications" for the capital.
HOB reports unconfirmed cases in Port-au-Prince's Carrefour community. "Other areas have reported cholera such as Grand and Petit Goave....Suspect (cases) have been reported in Les Cayes, Jacmel, and several other rural communities in the southern peninsula. We assume it is highly likely the epidemic has indeed extended to" this area. HOB concludes that:
Two Nations Delivering Promised Aid
Virtually ignored in Western media reports, Cuba stands out. For years, hundreds of its doctors, nurses, and other medical specialists have provided Haitians with primary care, surgeries, and other professional services. After the earthquake, they worked round the clock delivering exemplary aid, helped by Venezuelan funding.
Cuba's now playing a lead role in treating cholera victims. On November 4, Argentine Dr. Emiliano Mariscal, a graduate of Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine and member of its Haiti medical team, said:
Venezuela also was one of the first countries to deliver post-quake aid, sending fuel, hundreds of tons of food, medical supplies, water purification systems, electrical generators, heavy equipment to remove rubble, and more. Venezuela also immediately cancelled Haiti's debt.
After the cholera outbreak, it sent more aid, including a Ministry of Health team, 10,000 doses of medication, and 4,500 intravenous drips and rehydration tablets, promising more will follow. Venezuela is working cooperatively with the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), a political and diplomatic multilateral regional body, each member country committed to contribute resources, supplies and services.
A Final Comment
A previous article explained that on November 28, first round legislative and presidential elections will be held. Democracy, however, will be absent because the nation's most popular party, Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas, and 13 others are excluded, the system rigged to "elect" Washington friendly choices.
Suppressing an orchestrated sham (a coup d'etat by other means), US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice's September 24 Voice of America (America's propaganda to the world) article headlined, "Supporting Stability in Haiti," saying:
Clear evidence shows otherwise, a disgusting US-led effort to militarize the country, obstruct aid, and divert funding for development, not affected Haitians. Now, under impossible conditions, a force-fed sham election, spreading cholera, exacerbated by flooding, and no aid whatever from Washington. America is committed only to imperial wars, occupations, and exploitation. Ask Haitians. They'll explain.
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Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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