Haiti Cholera Marches: Are a Supply of Medicines Enough To Stop It?
Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country is hit by another disaster, cholera, within nine and a half months of the earthquake that killed half a million people. This is actually the first cholera epidemic since the 1991 outbreak in Peru. It has been recently announced to have slowed down its pace. But does that really mean a lot of hope?
This deadly diarrheal epidemic has already taken the toll of 250 lives and more than 3342 are in the waiting list. (It was 3015 a day ago.) "Now that cholera has established itself with a strong foothold in Haiti, it is clear to us that it will not go away for several years," said Dr John Andreas of the PAHO.
Actually 75% of the cases are still not notified as there are no symptoms. This bacteria can live within the human system for more than two weeks and then come back to the environment and infect others. So far the cholera has hit the two rural central regions of Haiti, Artibonite and Center, regions which did not experience significant damage in the earthquake but that have absorbed thousands of refugees from the Capital, Port-au-Prince. Only five cases have been identified in the Capital, and these were people who came from Artibonite.
Now the real fear is that the epidemic can start spreading among the 1.3 million quake survivors who are still living in the unhealthiest conditions in the camps in Port-au-Prince. Tens of Thousands more live in even filthier slums. They use the same watercourses for bathing, cleaning and drinking.
Like always, international help has flowed in the form of emergency medicines, medical teams and clear water supply. But will that suffice?
Continued on the next page
What it now requires most is public awareness. The WHO has also stated that a "public information campaign can make the difference between life and death" in Haiti. In close coordination with the UN and the Government of Haiti, Internews, an international media development organization, is trying to launch a comprehensive public information campaign using radio, television, megaphones, sound trucks and community-based mobilization, to communicate messages about cholera and cholera diagnosis, prevention and treatment. They are trying to effectively handle information and coordinate communication. This is most important in this region where people are unaware of cholera and hence can get easily panicked, yet stay without proper precautions.