News / Americas

Unrest Reaches Haitian Capital

A demonstrator shouts as he carries a sign reading in Creole 'Minusta and Cholera are twins' during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 18 Nov 2010
A demonstrator shouts as he carries a sign reading in Creole 'Minusta and Cholera are twins' during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 18 Nov 2010

Violent unrest has spread to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, where angry Haitians clashed with U.N. peacekeepers, whom they blame for the nation's cholera epidemic.

Reports from the capital late Thursday say protesters threw rocks at the peacekeepers and blocked roads with burning tires.

Violent riots broke out earlier this week after some Haitians accused U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal of bringing cholera to the Caribbean nation.

Demonstrators burned cars and attacked U.N. bases.  Two protesters were killed Monday in clashes with U.N. troops, while a third demonstrator died Wednesday.

Over 1,00 dead

Haiti's Health Ministry says the waterborne disease has killed more than 1,100 people and hospitalized more 18,400  since the outbreak was first reported late last month.

CHOLERA PREVENTION & SYMPTOMS

Watch Out For:

  • Profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, leg cramps *Without treatment you could die within a few hours time

    Prevent Getting Infected By:
  • Drinking bottled water (avoid ice)
  • Washing hands often with soap and water

    Using latrines or burying feces (avoid defecating in or near water sources)

    Cooking food well (making sure food is hot, peel fruits, vegetables, avoid raw foods)

    Cleaning kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms at least 30 meters away from water sources

    *Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Political motivation?

U.N. officials have said the protests have been politically motivated by factions wanting to disrupt upcoming elections.

U.S. health experts say the cholera epidemic could easily get worse.  

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report Thursday, that the course of the current outbreak is difficult to predict. The report said the Haitian population has no preexisting immunity to cholera and said environmental conditions in Haiti are favorable for its continued spread.

Call for aid

The European Union's humanitarian aid commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, urged member states Thursday to help Haiti fight the epidemic by sending the country supplies, not just money. Georgieva said Haiti has an urgent need for supplies, including medication and water purification tablets.

Haitian President Rene Preval and U.N. officials have called for an end to the violence, saying it will only hamper aid efforts.

The U.N. says it has been forced to cancel flights carrying aid supplies because of security concerns in Cap-Haitien and Port-de-Paix.  Roadblocks and other problems caused by the protests also have affected people's ability to get to the hospital, and have forced the suspension of a water cleaning project and training of medical staff.

Spread to Dominican Republic

Health officials in the Dominican Republic and the United States say they have identified cases of cholera in their nations. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, reported one case of the disease in a Haitian man who is receiving treatment.  

Authorities in the southern U.S. state of Florida say they have also confirmed a case in a woman who visited Haiti near where the outbreak began.  Officials say they are investigating other possible cases in Florida.

Cholera is spread through fecal-contaminated food and water.  It causes vomiting and diarrhea, and can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death.  The World Health Organization says the bacteria that causes the disease will be in Haiti for years.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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