“A year and a half after cholera first struck Haiti, a tiny portion of the population on Thursday began getting vaccinated against the waterborne disease that has infected more than 530,000 Haitians and killed more than 7,040,” the New York Times reports (Sontag, 4/12). The pilot project, which will reach only one percent of Haiti’s population, “aim[s] … to show that it’s possible to give the required two doses over a two-week period to desperately poor and hard-to-reach people,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” writes. “If it works, the plan is to convince the Haitian government, deep-pocketed donors and international health agencies to support a much bigger campaign to vaccinate millions of Haitians at highest risk of cholera,” according to the blog (Knox, 4/12).
In this New York Times opinion piece, columnist Tina Rosenberg examines a global rise in cholera cases, writing, “The World Health Organization estimates that there are between three million and five million cases of cholera each year, and between 100,000 and 120,000 deaths. New and more virulent strains are emerging in Asia and Africa, and the WHO says that global warming creates even more hospitable conditions for the disease.” However, “[c]holera should not be a terror. It is easy to treat if you know how,” she writes.
“The toilet is a magnificent thing. … Unfortunately it is an impractical luxury for about two-thirds of the world’s seven billion people because it relies on connections to water and sewerage systems that must be built and maintained at great expense,” a Bloomberg editorial writes. “About 40 percent of all people, an estimated 2.6 billion of them, have no access to even a minimally sanitary facility, according to the World Health Organization,” and “[t]he result is illness and early death. Diarrheal diseases, including those linked to improper sanitation, are the second largest killer in the developing world, taking two million lives annually,” the editorial continues.
In a monthly bulletin (.pdf) on the humanitarian response in Haiti, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that an increase of new cholera cases has been recorded in the western and northern parts of the country and “that Haitian health officials recorded 77 new cases a day for the whole country in early March, when the rains began,” the Associated Press/USA Today reports. “The new cholera cases come after a steady decline since June of last year when aid workers saw peaks of more than 1,000 cases on certain days,” the news agency writes.
In this Reuters opinion piece, finance blogger Felix Salmon responds to a New York Times (NYT) article published on Monday in which journalist Deborah Sontag examines the global response to Haiti’s cholera epidemic. He writes, “There’s no doubt that Haiti’s cholera epidemic was massive and tragic, and that the response to it could have been better, in an ideal world. But Sontag barely attempts to address the question of why the response was suboptimal. … Rather, [she] spends a huge amount of effort tracking down, on the one hand, purely anecdotal stories of individual Haitians who were exposed to the disease, and on the other hand, the detailed story of whether and how the outbreak could be traced back to a group of Nepalese peacekeepers on the island.”
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).