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UN Estimates Cholera Could Affect 400,000 Haitians


People suffering cholera symptoms are treated in a sports center converted into a cholera treatment center in Cap Haitien, Haiti, 23 Nov 2010

People suffering cholera symptoms are treated in a sports center converted into a cholera treatment center in Cap Haitien, Haiti, 23 Nov 2010

U.N. officials are calling for a much stronger international response to Haiti's cholera outbreak after new estimates show the epidemic could affect as many as 400,000 people.

The U.N.'s humanitarian agency says the new estimate is twice what health officials had earlier projected for how far the outbreak could spread.

Health officials say the estimate is a worst-case scenario and could be avoided if prevention and treatment responses can reach enough people.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos called the estimate a wake-up call and said investment is needed in cholera prevention throughout Haiti along with more treatment centers and more health workers.

Earlier Tuesday, it was announced Amos would be visiting Haiti this week to review the humanitarian response to the cholera outbreak that has killed about 1,300 people.

Amos will be in the Caribbean nation for two days, meeting with government and U.N. officials as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations.

The visit comes as Haiti prepares for elections Sunday to elect a new president to replace Rene Preval, who cannot run again. Voters will also elect a 99-member lower house and 11 members of the 30-seat Senate.

The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten, urged Haitians to exercise their right to vote. Speaking to reporters via video conference from Port-au-Prince, Merten said the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, will help to provide security along with local police. He said thousands of electoral observers will monitor the polling.

Also Tuesday, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, Edmond Mulet, told reporters via video conference that preliminary results of the vote would be available December 7 and that final official results would be announced December 20. Any runoff elections would be held January 16.

Besides the cholera epidemic, Haiti is still recovering from a January 12 earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people and left about one million others homeless. Haiti is the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Related video report by Carol Pearson:

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