News / Americas

    In Haiti, Cholera Quietly Still Kills Dozens a Month

    People get treatment at Haiti's first permanent cholera center, run by Gheskio Centers, in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 24, 2016.
    People get treatment at Haiti's first permanent cholera center, run by Gheskio Centers, in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 24, 2016.
    Associated Press

    A dozen people reclined on cots inside the clinic in the Haitian capital, a few so sick they were receiving intravenous infusions to rehydrate their bodies and spare them an agonizing death.
     
    The worst off one recent morning was a thin and spectral man, weak from the vomiting and diarrhea caused by cholera. But all were expected to survive. The disease spread by contaminated water is easily treatable but can lead to death within hours if unattended.
     
    “However I got it, I really hope I never get this sick again,” another patient, Estin Josue, said as he recovered inside an immaculately clean and orderly treatment center in downtown Port-au-Prince run by Gheskio Centers, a Haitian medical organization.
     
    Josue and his fellow patients were relatively lucky, getting sick relatively close to the country's first permanent cholera treatment center. Many others are not as fortunate as Haiti continues to wrestle with the worst outbreak of the disease in recent history.
     
    Worst outbreak in recent history

    Cholera, which arrived in Haiti in October 2010, has sickened more than 770,000 people, or about 7 percent of the population, and killed more than 9,200. So far this year, it has sickened more than 6,000 and is killing an average of 37 people a month.
     
    The persistence of the preventable disease has alarmed public health experts who fear that attention and resources have been diverted by newer challenges, including the regional spread of the Zika virus and the political crisis that recently halted Haiti's elections.
     
    World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said cholera is now considered “endemic” in Haiti, meaning it's an illness that occurs regularly. Others have noted the cholera bacterium now appears to be firmly established in Haiti's rivers, estuaries and even coastal waters.
     
    ‘Extremely difficult to eradicate’

    “Once it is established in a country's aquatic reservoir it is extremely difficult to eradicate,” said Afsar Ali, a researcher at the University of Florida who has led studies of cholera in Haiti for years.

    Dr. Joseph Donald Francois, who coordinates the health ministry's efforts to combat the illness, still believes Haiti, with international help, can eliminate cholera by 2022. But he acknowledged the effort is badly underfinanced.
     
    Only $307 million, or less than 14 percent, has been funded of a $2.2 billion plan announced in 2013 to eradicate cholera from the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic over a decade, according to a November report from the U.N.
     
    In the first year of the outbreak, more than 200 international organizations were providing money and expertise to combat the illness in Haiti. Now, there are fewer than a dozen, Francois said.
     
    Some see situation as ‘no longer urgent’

    “Having far fewer deaths has led a lot of people to believe the situation is no longer urgent,” Francois said. “But if we had the resources, people wouldn't be dying at all.”

    Cholera was first detected in central Haiti's Artibonite Valley. Researchers say there is ample evidence the disease was introduced to the country's biggest river by inadequately treated sewage from a base of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, one of the units that have rotated in and out of a multinational force in Haiti since 2004.
     
    Victims' advocates have sued the U.N. in the United States. A federal judge ruled last year that the international organization was immune from a lawsuit seeking compensation. The U.S. Court of Appeals this week heard arguments for the plaintiffs challenging the U.N. immunity claim. A decision is not expected for months.
     
    Double punch

    Cholera showed up 10 months after a devastating earthquake in the south of Haiti, deepening the country's misery at a time when it was ill-equipped to cope with a second crisis.
     
    New research published this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention suggests cholera's death toll in Haiti could have been significantly higher due to inadequate reporting early in the outbreak.
     
    While the number of cholera cases has been significantly reduced from its first wave and the mortality rate has been slashed to lower than 1 percent from a high of 9 percent in December 2010, the fact that cholera is still killing Haitians more than five years on is galling to public health experts.
     
    Need to raise expectations

    “We need to raise our expectations of what's possible to do in Haiti and other countries in terms of these diseases that we've completely eliminated from our own societies,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a senior policy adviser with Boston-based Partners In Health.
     
    Ivers was working in Haiti's central plateau when cholera started sickening and killing so many people that it gave the nation the globe's highest rate of cholera one year after it was introduced. She said there hasn't been nearly enough progress addressing the lack of sanitation and access to clean water that are key to eliminating cholera and believes progress has stalled.
     
    Only 24 percent of Haitians have access to a toilet, sewage is rarely treated and safe water remains inaccessible to many.
     
    Jean Bertho, an unemployed laborer walking by a trash-strewn gully shook his head when asked about the disease.
     
    “I wouldn't be surprised if cholera lasts for another 50 years here,” he said. “There's so much garbage everywhere and Haitian people can't get good water easily.”

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Venezuela Critics Press for Progress on Presidential Recall

    Socialist government digging in its heels to stop a presidential recall vote as it fights to hold onto power amid an economic collapse

    Brazil Prosecutor Freezes $11.7M of Facebook Funds Due to WhatsApp Case

    Facebook failed to comply with court order to supply data on users of company's messaging service who are under criminal investigation

    No Amnesty for War Rapists: Colombia Peace Talks Turn to Women's Rights

    Government, FARC rebels have pledged to improve access to land for women and ensure perpetrators of sexual violence will not be eligible for amnesty as part of ongoing peace talks

    UN Asks Brazil Authorities to Investigate Journalist's Death

    UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova condemns the killing of Joao Miranda do Carmo, the third reporter to die in Brazil this year

    Venezuela Food Shortages Leave Zoo Animals Hungry

    Some 50 animals have starved to death in last six months at one of main zoos, according to a union leader

    Anti-mining Politician Freed from Jail in Peru Slams Government

    Gregorio Santos, who was freed from jail Wednesday, accuses the government of locking him up for two years in order to keep him from power