News / Americas

Haiti's Cholera Epidemic Not Waning; Vaccination to Begin

The United States' most prominent public health agency is calling the cholera epidemic in Haiti “the worst cholera outbreak in recent history.”  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cholera continues to spread across Haiti a year after it was first identified, despite better access to clean water.  This, as the United Nations faces a lawsuit for alleged unsanitary conditions at a U.N. base that may have introduced cholera into Haiti. Our reporter takes us to a cholera clinic in Haiti, just a few kilometers from where the cholera outbreak in Haiti is thought to have begun.

She stands in the morning heat, in pain and worry.  For her baby and herself.  "Susan" won't give her real name because of the stigma of her disease.  She walked and rode motorcycles for six hours to arrive at this cholera treatment center.

“I was really worried this morning, especially when I was walking because I was really concerned I might lose the baby," said 'Susan'. " So I knew I had to get here and see what result I had.”

Cholera can kill within hours by depleting body fluids through uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting. Susan's sister also has it. Doctors know exactly how cholera spreads.  Some Haitians don't, like Susan's mother.

"Only God knows what causes cholera," said 'Susan's' mother.

The cause .. is contaminated water.

Deadly Cholera Outbreaks

Haiti October 2010-present

  • 470,000 people infected, almost 7,000 dead

Nigeria 2010

  • 40,000 infected, 1,500 dead

Zimbabwe 2008

  • 100,000 infected, 4,200 dead

Democratic Republic of Congo 1994

  • Tens of thousands dead

Peru, rest of South America 1991 to 1994

  • 1 million infected, 10,000 dead

And a U.N. panel of experts has traced it back to Nepalese peacekeepers at this U.N. base.
The disease has sickened nearly half a million Haitians in the past year, and killed more than 6,500.  During the height of the rainy season, patients here were three to a bed.

Just down the road from the treatment center is the Latem River, where the first cases of cholera were reported.  It flows into the l’Artibonite River, the largest in Haiti, spreading the disease within days to rural areas with no access to clean water.”

"You will see people bathing in the river, doing their laundry in the river, drinking from the river, bathing their animals and having them drink in the river," said Cate Oswald.

Cate Oswald is with Partners in Health, the group that runs the center.  It and another organization, GHESKIO, want to begin a cholera vaccination pilot program in January.   But other groups argue a $900,000 price tag is too costly, and it would only reach 1 per cent of the population. Others worry the Haitian effort will deplete the global vaccine supply.  

So, meantime, the centers train Haitians to treat drinking water with chlorine tablets and to practice good hygiene. But Dr. Jean William Pape with GHESKIO says those actions often do not continue at home.

“You tell people to wash their hands," said Dr. Pape. "They don’t have enough water to drink.  How are they going to wash their hands?”

Back at the treatment center, "Susan" feels her baby moving.  She will leave in a couple days to return to her home high up in these mountains. There, she has no access to indoor plumbing or latrines.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

UN Launches Review of Possible Corruption

Audit will look at interaction between world body and two organizations that US prosecutors have accused of bribing a former top UN official

US to Publish Records on Chile 1976 Assassination

Orlando Letelier was killed, along with his American co-worker Ronni Moffitt, by a car bomb in the center of Washington

US Official: Ending Cuba Embargo Will Take Time

Commerce Secretary wraps up visit to communist-ruled island saying both sides need to learn more about each other as they work to improve relations

Missing Cargo Ship’s Recorder Sought for Clues

Officials say El Faro's voyage data recorder, similar to 'black box' on aircraft, would provide a wealth of data on what befell the ship and the 33 people aboard

UN Rights Chief Calls on Mexico to Broaden Missing Students Probe

In yet unsolved case, 43 students vanished in September of last year in southern city of Iguala after clash with police

El Niño Brings Welcome Rains to Chile's Farmers, Ski Resorts

August, September have both seen higher amounts of rain than average for the Southern Hemisphere spring