USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Thursday appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to discuss rebuilding efforts in Haiti two years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Shah said, “[O]ver the last two years, we’ve seen real signs of hope. A number of things have worked. Partners and the Haitian government and Haitian leaders have done things differently so that today, … more people have access to clean water and safe sanitation in Port-au-Prince than the day before the earthquake,” according to the transcript.
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a research fellow at the CGD, and Richard Cash, senior lecturer on global health at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Global Health and Population, report on a lawsuit brought forth against the U.N. on behalf of some of Haiti’s 15,000 cholera victims, writing that “the thought of suing the ‘sending’ government — Mexico for H1N1, India for polio, etc. — for the spread of these diseases seems absurd because it does not recognize the dynamics of infectious diseases” (1/11).
International Health Groups Ally To Fight Cholera In Haiti; Officials Emphasize Need For Sanitation Infrastructure
“Unless steps are taken to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, the disease will likely resurge and could even spread to other parts of the Caribbean, international health officials said Wednesday,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Bristol, 1/11). Officials from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), UNICEF and the CDC “said they would join with the Haitian and Dominican governments to develop a plan to eradicate cholera from the island the two countries share by extending clean water and sanitation to stricken areas,” Reuters writes, adding, “The effort faces a daunting financial challenge if it is to meet a goal of reaching at least two-thirds of the Haitian population by 2015, a task that could cost $1.1 billion” (Morgan, 1/12).
“Internet-based news and Twitter feeds were faster than traditional sources at detecting the onset and progression of the cholera epidemic in post-earthquake Haiti …, according to a new study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH),” an AJTMH press release states. “The study is the first to demonstrate the use of data from ‘informal’ media sources in monitoring an outbreak of a neglected tropical disease in a resource-limited setting, and shows that these sources can yield reliable decision-making data during deadly disease outbreaks almost in real-time, often far earlier than traditional surveillance methods that include surveys of hospitals and health clinics,” the press release adds (1/9).
“A mentally ill man who bathed in and drank from a contaminated river most likely was the first person to be infected” with cholera in the outbreak that began in Haiti in October 2010, researchers from Partners in Health said in a study published Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (1/9). “‘This patient’s case is the first in the community’s collective memory to have had symptoms that are recognizable, in retrospect, to be those of cholera,’ according to the study,” CNN’s “The Chart” notes, adding, “There is no lab method to confirm that this was the first patient to start the epidemic, wrote the authors” (Park, 1/9).
“Almost two years after the devastating 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince, full recovery appears to be years away,” the Miami Herald reports, noting that “[t]housands of people continue to live in makeshift shelters and tents [and] rubble from dilapidated buildings still line some streets” (Lee, 1/7). In addition, “[t]he cholera outbreak in Haiti is ‘one of the largest epidemics of the disease in modern history to affect a single country,’ the U.N. World Health Organization’s Pan-American Health Organization [PAHO] said in a news release,” according to United Press International (1/7).
IRIN examines how a lack of sanitation facilities and access to clean water, as well as the onset of the rainy season, are increasing the risk of waterborne diseases in rural areas of Zimbabwe. A 2009 survey, “compiled by the government and U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), listed diarrhea as one of the major causes of infant mortality resulting in around 4,000 deaths in Zimbabwe annually” and “showed a 20 percent increase in under-five mortality since 1990,” IRIN writes.
The State Department has released a series of fact sheets examining the U.S. government’s two-year progress in Haiti. One fact sheet examines government efforts to “lessen the severity of the [cholera] outbreak” in Haiti. Another fact sheet looks at the challenges of food security in Haiti, stating, “Even before the January 12, 2010 earthquake, Haiti faced significant challenges to food security. â€¦ Prior to the earthquake, 40 percent of households were undernourished and 30 percent of children suffered from chronic malnutrition.” A fact sheet on health states that the U.S. government “has been providing access to health services for 50 percent of the people of Haiti for the last five years, including a basic package of health services (primarily maternal and child health) and more sophisticated HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services.” Additional fact sheets on the government’s work in Haiti can be found on the State Department’s Haiti Special Coordinator website (12/28).
“Haiti has seen a steady decline in the number of cholera cases, as the Caribbean nation settles into its dry season, humanitarian groups said Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports, adding, “The seasonal decline in the number of cholera cases is consistent with the findings of a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.” According to the report, health officials are recording about 300 cases nationwide per day, compared with 500 cases one month ago, and the mortality rate has dropped or leveled in nearly all of Haiti’s 10 departments, the AP notes (Daniel, 12/20).
“Philippine authorities are warning of the spread of diseases in cramped evacuation centers, days after flash floods hit the southern Philippines and claimed more than a thousand lives,” ABC/Asia Pacific News reports, noting that flooding also has affected the country’s northern provinces, displacing at least 50,000 people (Escalante, 12/20). Tropical Storm Washi “hit the main southern island of Mindanao over the weekend, bringing heavy rains, flash floods and overflowing rivers that swept whole coastal villages away,” forcing 44,000 people to evacuate the area, Agence France-Presse/Inquirer News writes (Celis, 12/21). Officials say hundreds of thousands of people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and the U.N. has stepped up its efforts in the area, the U.N. News Centre reports (12/20).