Saturday September 22, 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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Zimbabwe Government Aid in The Cholera Outbreak By Pledging Money

In 2008 and 2009, a cholera epidemic killed nearly 5,000 people.

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Zimbabwe, Cholera
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa talks to one of the cholera victims on Sept. 19, 2018 in Glen View’s Harare, epicenter of the waterborne disease. VOA

Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, says his government will assist municipalities struggling to fight a cholera outbreak that has killed 32 people and affected more than 3,000 during the past three weeks.

After visiting the epicenter of the cholera outbreak in Harare, President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed to help the Harare City Council with financial assistance and called on the corporate world to donate toward fighting the epidemic.

“We are raising money, which has been coming in daily, so that we fix the burst pipes at Morton Jeffery Waterworks and the Central Business District, as well as the suburbs… we have been told that most of these pipes are old and are bursting at any given time, so we have found some well-wishers who are helping us. We will continue to support the Harare City Council In its programs meant to sanitize Harare, because the council does not have enough powers to be doing all the work alone,” he said.

Zimbabwe Cholera
On Sept. 16, 2018, a vegetable vendor in Harare says she refuses to leave her business as she has no other sources of income with Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate said to be around 85 percent. VOA

Nearby, David Shonhiwa, a vendor in Glen View, the suburban epicenter of Harare’s cholera epidemic, says there have been improvements in the area’s hygiene since cholera was detected, but more are needed.

“The situation is better now. We have been receiving clean water and we got buckets, but it has not been possible for everyone to get something because there are difficulties which others have been encountering,” he said.

Zimbabwe Cholera
Sirak Gebrehiwot, United Nations spokesperson in Zimbabwe, says his organization has deployed three emergency situations specialists to access the situation. VOA

 

Tuesday, a U.N. spokesperson in Zimbabwe, Sirak Gebrehiwot, said a U.N. emergency response fund may be activated as the cholera outbreak spreads to other parts of the country.

“In light of the appeal announced by the government of Zimbabwe to respond to the cholera, the U.N. has scaled up its support,” said Gebrehiwot. “The regional office of the U.N. Humanitarian Affairs has already deployed three U.N. emergency humanitarian specialists in the ongoing response. This is in addition to our colleagues from UNICEF and the WHO, are already engaged on the ground in this emergency response.”

Also Read: Video- Zimbabwe’s Newly Appointed President Calls For Unity

In 2008 and 2009, a cholera epidemic killed nearly 5,000 people. It only stopped after international organizations such as USAID, Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and U.N. agencies including UNICEF and the World Health Organization provided medicine and water treatment chemicals. (VOA)