Cholera Death Toll Could Reach That of Earthquake

Spreading of the disease needs to be brought under control

By Hank Tester
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 10:12 AM EDT
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Photos: Haiti Quake Hits Miami Community

AP

Children suffering cholera symptoms rest at the hospital in Grande-Saline, Haiti, Saturday Oct. 23, 2010. A spreading cholera outbreak in rural Haiti threatened to outpace aid groups as they stepped up efforts Saturday hoping to keep the disease from reaching the camps of earthquake survivors in Port-au-Prince. Health officials said at least 208 people had died. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

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Cholera in Haiti

Things have only become worse in the earthquake ravaged island country.
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Angel Aloma is worried. More than worried, "this is something that is going to require heavy duty attention," said the Executive Director of Food for the Poor. 

Alomoa had just learned that the Haiti's cholera death count had jumped over the 1,000 mark. Exactly 1,034 were dead and 16,000, were sick.  The outbreak was centered in the agricultural area between Port au Prince in the South and Cap-Haitian in the North. A major worry is some cases have appeared in Port au Prince where thousands upon thousands of Haitian are living in tents mired by unsanitary conditions. 

Almoa says that if cholera gets out of control it could produce a death toll that might rival the number that died during the January Port au Prince earthquake that killed 230,000.  That's a scary thought, but with a thousand plus deaths in three weeks, one can see the worry.

The United Nation's humanitarian coordinator in Haiti says that cholera has been found in every Haitian province. Hard to believe, but disease experts say that Haiti has never had a cholera outbreak. 

The dynamics of a cholera outbreak are simple, and fit Haiti to a tee. Standing water, zero sanitation facilities, thousands huddled in tents post-earthquake.

"People use whatever they can for sanitation. If any rain comes, fecal matter spreads all over a camp. The symptoms of cholera are diarrhea, so again it creates another problem as there is a lot more of this matter to spread it around," Aloma explains.

World health officials are prepared for a long haul in Haiti. Cholera can linger for years, especially if sanitation is not improved and water supplies secured.

Food For The Poor has shipped and installed 30 solar powered water filtration units in Haiti's Artibonite Valley, where the outbreak was first detected. The organization is seeking donations to finance more water filtration and housing projects. Already, 1,500 permanent, concrete block two-room homes with sanitation units have been built.

Earthquake, Hurricane Tomas, now Cholera -- it is a never ending calamity for a country that seems to never get a break.

Food for the Poor: www.foodforthepoor.org

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