Nearly 800 Haitians have contracted cholera two weeks after Hurricane Matthew hit the Carribean country. Relief efforts are not keeping up with demand.
Two weeks after Hurricane Matthew cut through Haiti, cholera is a growing threat to those who survived the storm. Officials counted 773 cases of cholera in the Caribbean country, but the actual number of infected Haitians may be higher.
The Category 4 storm destroyed countless buildings, including cholera treatment centers. The water-borne illness has flared in the hardest hit areas after floods contaminated drinking water in the southwest. The World Health Organization this week said that it would send 1 million cholera vaccine doses to the country.
Not the first cholera outbreak
Haiti suffered another post-disaster cholera outbreak in 2010, after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck just west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 250,000 homes were destroyed and over 100,000 people died in the earthquake.
In the relief effort, UN peacekeepers from Nepal were blamed for accidentally pouring cholera-infected sewage into a river, spreading the disease. The number of cases spiked to 300,000 in 2011. Nearly 10,000 people have died of cholera in Haiti since 2010.
Relief still in serious need
More than 1 million people require assistance after the hurricane destroyed buildings and scattered debris, leaving many roads impassable and remote areas of the country completely cut off. Protests over slow aid distribution is making the process that much slower, according to a United Nations official. The desperate situation led some people to block roads themselves and loot humanitarian convoys. A teenager was shot in the chest by Haitian police on Tuesday while attempting to loot a truck at a center for aid distribution.
"We don't know if there are many people with the problem of cholera in the areas that we cannot access and that is why I ask the people, let us access everywhere," said David Nabarro, a special advisor to the UN Secretary-General who was previously in charge of the UN's response to cholera. During a brief stopover in Haiti on Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon witnessed the looting of a food aid container in Les Cayes, an aid distribution center.
Around 1.4 million people need humanitarian aid, especially clean water and hygiene kits to stop the spread of cholera and other illnesses. More than 200,000 homes were severely damaged and 175,000 people are living in temporary shelters across the country. The United Nations appealed for $120 million (109.5 million euro) in relief for Haiti but has received just $15 million.
kbd/msh (AFP, Reuters)