Wednesday April 25, 2018

Fighting Cholera Urgent Part of Haiti’s Hurricane Recovery, say Doctors

Cholera is treatable, and the most common and dangerous symptom is dehydration

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The daughter of 84-year-old Armant Germain replaces the sheets on her bed, in the cholera ward at a hospital in Les Cayes Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA
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October 12, 2016: As Haiti continues to count its dead and assess damage following devastating Hurricane Matthew, doctors and public health officers warn the risk of cholera must urgently be addressed.

Unprecedented flooding, particularly in the hard-hit southwestern peninsula, has contaminated already-scarce safe drinking water, drastically increasing the risk of a cholera outbreak. Once contracted, dehydration caused by cholera can kill children in as quickly as six hours.

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“Essentially, the battle against cholera is sometimes a race against time,” said Dr. Unni Krishnan of Save the Children. “It’s a very fast killer and we need to act quickly.”

Dr. Krishnan has worked around Haiti for 10 years, travelling to wherever he is most needed. He is currently working in Les Cayes, the city the hardest hit last week by Hurricane Matthew.

“When you come to some of the impacted areas you realise how bad the situation is,” he told VOA. “It’s something which can never be truly captured in words or pictures.”

A worker prepares serum at a cholera center in Anse D'Hainault, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA
A worker prepares serum at a cholera center in Anse D’Hainault, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA

Contaminated drinking water

Contamination of drinking water is far from the only thing increasing the risk of cholera throughout Haiti.

Among many others, Dr. Krishnan said a lack of privacy due to destroyed homes has resulted in women breast feeding less often, and breast milk is a powerful natural antidote to cholera for infants.

Cholera is treatable, and the most common and dangerous symptom is dehydration. But lack of infrastructure and hospitals, made worse by the hurricane damage, could make combating an epidemic difficult for Haiti.

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“For context, we are talking about a country with one of the weakest health systems in this part of the world,” Dr. Krishnan said, emphasising that many medical centres were destroyed or rendered non-functional due to the storm damage.

The hope for Haiti in the face of cholera lies in lessons learned, following a 2010 earthquake, after which Haiti suffered the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, according to the Center for Disease Control. Nearly 10,000 people in Haiti died of the treatable disease.

The international community bears the burden as well. The U.N. publicly took responsibility for bringing Virbrio cholerae, the bacteria which causes cholera, through Nepalese peacekeepers who went to the island nation following the earthquake.

United Nations police from Bangladesh deliver drinking water to residents of Sous-Roche village, outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA
United Nations police from Bangladesh deliver drinking water to residents of Sous-Roche village, outside Les Cayes, Haiti, Oct. 11, 2016. VOA

New UN measures

A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. needs to do “much more” to address the cholera epidemic in Haiti, and promised a “significant new set of U.N. actions” to respond to the crisis, probably in two months or less. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization announced it is sending one million doses of oral cholera vaccine to Haiti.

Vaccinating all 10 million Haitians on the island would cost over $100 million, according to the American Council on Science and Health.

“That said, when you break something in a store, you have to buy it,” Dr. Julianna LeMieux of ACSH wrote on their website. “It’s time for the international body to give its health experts the financial support they need to correct the catastrophe it created.”

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While Dr. Krishnan did not specifically call out one organization to bear responsibility for the crisis, he urged the international community to be aware of how complex and dire the situation on the ground is.

“Haiti needs all the attention and support it can get now,” he said. (VOA)

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Civil War, Cholera and Severe Food Shortage Make Yemen World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisis ; UN calls it ‘Man-made Catastrophe’

Un Human Rights' Agency report asserts that the catastrophe is entirely man-made and a direct result of the behavior of the parties to the conflict.

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People inspect the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition targeted Yemen's capital early on Friday, hitting at least three houses in Sanaa and killing at least 14 civilians, including women and children, residents and eyewitnesses said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed) (VOA)
  • UN report asserts that the sufferings of people after years of civil war in Yemen are man-made
  • The report asserts that Yemen is in the grip of conflict, cholera and severe food shortages
  • According to the U.N. Human Rights Agency, more than 10 million people are in acute need of health care

Geneva, September 6, 2017 : The United Nations calls suffering endured by millions of people after more than two years of civil war in Yemen an entirely man-made catastrophe.

The world body reports there have been more than 11,700 civilians killed or injured in the civil war in Yemen, since the Saudi Arabian coalition began airstrikes against Houthi rebels in support of the government in March 2015. It blames more than 8,000 of the casualties on the coalition and more than 3,700 on the Houthis.

The report says conflict, cholera and severe food shortages have made Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. Human Rights Agency’s Chief of Middle East and North Africa, Mohammad Ali Ainsour, says Yemen’s 18.8. million people need humanitarian aid and more than 10 million are in acute need of health care.

Civil war in Yemen
A woman helps her son as he lies on a bed at a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen. VOA

“The catastrophe is entirely man-made and a direct result of the behavior of the parties to the conflict, including indiscriminate attacks,” said Ainsour. “We have seen attacks on markets, residential areas, hospitals, schools, funeral gatherings and even fishermen and small civilian boats at sea.”

The report says civilians may have been directly targeted in some cases. The report documents a wide range of continuing human rights violations and abuses. It expresses concern at the increasing number of arbitrary or illegal detentions and forced disappearances of human rights defenders, religious leaders, journalists, and political opponents.

Ainsour says there are at least 1,700 cases of child recruitment, most by Houthi forces and 20 percent by pro-government forces.

“OHCHR [the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] monitors frequently observed children as young as 10, who were armed and uniformed and manning Houthi … checkpoints,” said Ainsour.

U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is repeating his call for an end to the fighting and for an independent, international investigation to be established. He says it is crucial to hold to account perpetrators of violations and abuse. (VOA)