The New York Times examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic, writing that while “[m]any health officials consider the cholera response ‘pretty remarkable,’ as John Vertefeuille, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director in Haiti, said … [o]thers … believe the bar for success was set too low and more lives could have been saved.” The newspaper continues, “[A]s the deaths and continuing caseload indicate, the world’s response to this preventable, treatable scourge has proved inadequate.”
Lack Of Aid Money In Haiti Threatening Health, Human Rights Of Displaced People, U.N. Official Warns
“The United Nations warned on Tuesday that a lack of aid money for Haiti was putting hundreds of thousands of displaced people at risk by forcing humanitarian agencies to cut services in one of the world’s poorest countries,” Reuters reports. Noting Haiti only received half of the $382 million aid request in 2011 and so far has received only 10 percent of this year’s $231 million appeal, Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, said, “(Underfunding) threatens to reverse gains achieved in the fight against cholera through the promotion of sanitary and hygiene practices. … It threatens the very existence of hundreds of thousands of (displaced people) living in camps,” according to the news agency. “Fisher said the humanitarian community was urgently requesting $53.9 million for the April-June period to protect those living in camps and to continue to provide services such as clean water, food and crime prevention and respond to cholera outbreaks, among other things,” Reuters writes (Nichols, 3/27).
A planned mass cholera vaccination project in Haiti continues to be “bogged down in bureaucratic red tape,” as spring rains begin and the number of cholera cases starts to rise, NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports. The Haitian medical group GHESKIO and international health organization Partners In Health are organizing the vaccination campaign, which “is awaiting approval from a national ethics committee, which wants assurance that the vaccine is no longer considered experimental,” according to the news service, which notes the “WHO last November approved the dollar-a-dose vaccine that’s ready to be used in Haiti.”
“A long-planned project to find out whether vaccination is feasible in the midst of an ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti has been stymied — temporarily, its proponents insist –” after “a Port-au-Prince radio station reported that the impending vaccination effort was actually a ‘medical experiment on the Haitian people’ — a potentially incendiary charge,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” reports.
In the first part of a two-part series in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Alisha Kramer, an intern with the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, and Matt Fisher, project coordinator of the CSIS Project on Global Water Policy and a research assistant at the Global Health Policy Center, provide a brief history of Haiti’s cholera outbreak, noting, “Ultimately, by the end of 2011, the outbreak had resulted in over 500,000 infections and 7,000 deaths” (3/6). In the second part, the authors recap the international response to the outbreak, writing, “Despite its physical devastation, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population — aided by PAHO, the CDC, USAID, and other non-governmental organizations — responded relatively well to the cholera outbreak; the low case-fatality ratio supports this view” (3/7).
UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office “on Tuesday appealed to western African governments to prevent a new cholera outbreak, after the disease claimed nearly 3,000 lives there last year,” Agence France-Presse reports. The “bureau said that ‘at least 105,248 cases of cholera were registered in 17 countries in 2011, and 2,898 people died’ in what was one of the most severe outbreaks of the disease in years,” the news agency writes. Though the number of cases is close to zero in most countries now, “governments should be prepared ‘to minimize risks for the next season which, in West and Central Africa, is projected to start in April 2012,'” the agency said, and noted it was concerned the disease could spread to the Sahel region, where people already are weakened by malnutrition, according to AFP (3/6).
“A typhoid outbreak that began in Harare last year is steadily spreading across Zimbabwe with more than 3,000 cases reported although only one death due to the disease has been reported so far, health officials have said,” ZimOnline reports (Marimudza, 2/29). “We have reported 203 new typhoid cases this week only … So we actually have an outbreak that is raging,” Ministry of Health Epidemiology and Disease Control Director Portia Manangazira told VOA News, according to the news service (Gonda/Chifera, 2/28). Speaking to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Welfare on Tuesday, Manangazira “said the ministry did not have adequate supply of drugs for patients,” NewsDay notes (Chidavaenzi, 2/29).
“A Haiti aid group warns on the eve of the rainy season that the Caribbean nation will likely see a surge in cholera cases,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. “Paul Farmer of the Boston-based group Partners in Health writes in an email Friday that Haiti could see a spike like the one that occurred last year,” when the “number of cholera cases nearly tripled from almost 19,000 last April to more than 50,000 two months later,” the news service writes. The AP notes, “Partners in Health will launch a vaccination campaign in the coming weeks to stem the spread of the waterborne disease” (2/24).
“A cholera epidemic has spread to nine out of 11 provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations said on Tuesday,” SAPA/News24 reports (Gold, 2/21). “Health authorities in the Republic of Congo have recorded 340 cases of cholera, nine of them fatal, since June 2011, in the northern district of Likouala, and have warned that the disease continues to spread and that some health centers lack sufficient treatment,” IRIN reports (2/21).
Zimbabwean Officials Call For Improvements To Water, Sanitation Systems To Prevent Further Typhoid Outbreaks
Zimbabwean health officials responding to typhoid outbreaks in the capital of Harare that have affected more than 2,000 people “have called on the local and central governments to overhaul water and sanitation systems” to stem the spread of the disease, VOA News reports. Portia Manangazira, chief of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health, “said Zimbabwean and international health authorities responded well to the crisis,” which has raised “fears for many Zimbabweans of the deadly 2008-2009 cholera epidemic which hit tens of thousands and left more than 4,200 people dead,” the news service writes.