- Three previous articles on the crisis can be accessed
through the following links:
- More will follow as events dictate.
- In America, especially on TV, Haiti's epidemic gets scant,
if any, coverage. In contrast, daily independent news reports are alarming.
Yet, despite raging cholera across Haiti, aid is woefully inadequate. A
November 19 Doctors With Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres - MSF) press
release headlined, "Cholera in Haiti: MSF Calling on All Actors to
Step Up Response," saying:
- "While cholera spreads, slow deployment of relief
is (a) major concern. Critical shortfalls in the deployment of well-established
measures to contain cholera epidemics are undermining efforts to stem the
ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti."
- Head of Haiti mission, Stefano Zannini, "call(ed)
on all groups and agencies present in Haiti to step up the size and speed
of their efforts to ensure an effective response to the needs of people
at risk of cholera infection."
- "There is no time left for meetings and debate -
the time for action is now." The epidemic has spread to at least eight
of Haiti's 10 provinces.
- Essentials needed include:
- -- safe chlorinated water;
- -- latrines and regular waste removal;
- -- mass distribution of soap;
- -- effective waste management and removal at medical
facilities to prevent contamination;
- -- waste disposal sites near urban areas;
- -- adequate oral rehydration points in affected areas;
- -- establishing enough safe, effective treatment centers;
- -- quickly locating, removing, and burying dead bodies.
- Since the outbreak, MSF set up over 20 treatment centers
throughout Port-au-Prince, the Artibonite region (where the outbreak originated),
and in Haiti's north. So far, MSF teams have treated over 16,500 people
through November 16, likely many more by now.
- MSF also brought in over 240 tons of medical and logistical
supplies, and has more than 1,000 Haitian staff and 150 of its own international
professionals concentrating on this disease. Press officer Caroline Seguin
stressed that cholera is easily preventable and treatable if done in time.
"It may be new to Haiti, but the ways to prevent and treat it are
- However, without a major, immediate "scale up of
necessary measures by international agencies and the government of Haiti,
we alone cannot contain this outbreak." So far, that effort has been
disturbingly lacking, despite hundreds of newly sick reported daily, adding
more to the growing toll.
- As of November 16, Haiti's Ministry of Public Health
and Population (MSPP) acknowledged 19,646 cases and 1,186 deaths. Even
by the most conservative estimates, those numbers are much higher.
- Partners in Health reported more cases in the Artibonite/Central
Plateau region as well as in Haiti's Central and Western departments. Metropolitan
Port-au-Prince is also affected, including in Cite Soleil, Carrefor, Delmas,
Kenscoff, Petion Ville, and Tabarre. Since mid-November, the North and
Northwest departments experienced a significant rise in cases.
- On November 20, Operational Biosurveillance said the
most conservative estimate is nearly 80,000 cases, stressing:
- "we have confirmation that in-patient statistics
are underreported by as much as 400%. In many areas of Haiti, we are documenting
outbreaks that are not being accounted for in the official statistics.
We therefore estimate the upper bound of estimated case counts to be 300,000."
Counting "subclinical infections....the true community load will be
(close) to 800,000. We err on the side of over-estimating because this
is a 'virgin soil' epidemic and expected to aggressively spread throughout
the country and across the border into the Dominican Republic....We expect
to see medical clinic inundations inside the DR in the near future."
- Florida also reported one case in a returned traveler.
America will experience more. However, "Implications for the United
States are negligible," given many treatment facilities in most areas.
- Street Protests Continue
- Anger across Haiti is visible and visceral, given inadequate
aid, hatred of the oppressive UN force, and confirmation that Haiti's cholera
strain is Asian, introduced by UN Nepalese troops in the Artibonite region
where the first outbreak occurred. On November 18, Claes Hammer, Sweden's
Haiti ambassador, told the daily Svenska Dagbladt that tests showed:
- "Unfortunately that is the case. It has proved that
the cholera came from Nepal....It is 100% true. Tests were made and the
source was traced to Nepal....This is obviously a strain of the disease
that is prevalent in Nepal and now it seems that (it) ended up in Haiti.
I have received the information from a diplomatic source. It is 100% accurate.
We have taken samples and traced the infection to Nepal."
- The UN humanitarian coordinator, Nigel Fisher, also told
Canada's CBC that a French epidemiologist's study confirmed the cholera
strain was Nepalese. He added that under appalling conditions, "The
epidemic is not going to go away. It is almost impossible to stop."
- America's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tried to
downplay it, saying little about its severity and only that the strain
is "most similar" to South Asian ones. Nepal's Army spokesman,
Ramindra Chettri, denied his country's origination, saying:
- "The UN has already issued a press release saying
the Nepalese forces were not responsible for the cholera outbreak after
conducting a series of tests."
- The last refuge of a scoundrel caught red-handed is lying,
this one based in the originating Artibonite region, its waters fouled
by cholera. It's now also confirmed that Nepalese troops dump sewage into
the Artibonite River, increasing its contamination.
- On November 19, Al Jazeera headlined, "Cholera unrest
hits Haiti capital," saying:
- Along with outbreaks in other parts of the country, Al
Jazeera's Cath Turner said rioting escalated in Port-au-Prince. In response,
police fired tear gas:
- "into a camp for internally displaced people....The
military wing of the National Police (struck) homeless camps across the
road from the national parliament - Champ de Mars. Sources are telling
us that there are scenes of parents and kids running around there trying
to escape" the effects. "There are also UN troops monitoring
this, and there are reports that they earlier fired tear gas at protesters.
So really things are coming to a head now."
- According to Radio Metropole, police and protesters clashed
near the National Palace. In other parts of the city, Haitians erected
barricades, burned tires, and tore down campaign posters for President
Rene Preval's hand-picked successor, Jude Celestin. First round presidential
and legislative elections are still scheduled for November 28 despite the
epidemic, appalling conditions in earthquake struck areas, the effects
of Hurricane Tomas, and 14 parties banned, including by far the most popular,
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas.
- A Final Comment
- Post-quake, minimal amounts of aid were provided, despite
billions of dollars pledged or delivered. Now cholera, a raging epidemic
likely to claim many thousands of lives because of Western indifference,
especially by Washington that delivered nothing. UN efforts also fell far
short, OCHA spokeswoman, Imogen Wall, telling Reuters that only $5 million
of its $164 million request to fight cholera was received.
- "The response is completely inadequate and in this
situation where we are against the clock we urgently need support if we
are going to save lives. (Yet), We don't have what we need to do it....Cholera
is a race against time. If we can get to people, and if we have what we
need, we" can save lives.
- Lack of enough aid prevents it, leaving most Haitians
on their own, especially those unable to access treatment. Reports now
say dead bodies are on streets and in homes. It's a shocking indictment
of indifferent rich nations, easily able to provide enough help but won't.
Haitians are devastated for lack of it. Daily their situation worsens,
the final toll too disturbing to imagine.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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