Cholera returns to Haiti as nation lurches from one crisis to the next
The United Nations World Health Organization has declared Haiti a choleric nation, following a surge in cholera cases that have led to mass evacuations of the capital of Port-au-Prince.
The cholera outbreak in Haiti has now claimed 10,000 lives in a matter of weeks, according to the United Nations. This is the first time a mass death toll has been recorded in a country in the post-Haitian era.
The United Nations is now looking for a new leader to head the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been left with one of its most powerful organizations without an executive secretary. The WHO’s current Secretary General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is the only doctor in the world who is responsible for ensuring that cholera is reported, and the only one who can actually respond to the disease.
When did this cholera surge start?
The cholera outbreak was brought into Haiti by a devastating earthquake that struck the country on 12 January 2010, killing an estimated 220,000 people. This earthquake also left 1,000 of the country’s hospitals destroyed. As a result, many more people than usual, including pregnant women and new mothers, were left to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake.
As soon as the cholera epidemic began, there was no organization in place to track the disease. A small number of people in Port-au-Prince were vaccinated against cholera, and the number of new cases grew.
More than 20 million Haitians are living in abject poverty, and cholera is the commonest cause of sickness and death among impoverished people. There were about 300,000 cases of cholera in Haiti in 2004; by 2010, the number of cases had doubled, to 700,000. In the past nine years, cholera has killed 2,370 people in Haiti. The number of people who die each year is estimated