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Haiti Cholera Death Toll Increases, U.N. Boosts Estimate For Number Of Expected Cases

“The cholera epidemic in Haiti is gathering pace and some violence is expected when the country holds elections this week, U.N. officials warned Tuesday,” Agence France-Presse reports. The official death toll from cholera is now above 1,400, but “experts believe that the real toll is close to 2,000 dead and the number of cases is between 60,000 and 70,000 rather than the 50,000 given by the authorities, Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti said,” according to the news service (11/23).

Previously, the WHO had estimated that there would be 200,000 cholera cases in Haiti over six months, but Fisher said the agency is “now revising that to 200,000 in closer to a three-month period,” Reuters reports. “The medical specialists all say that this cholera epidemic will continue through months and maybe a year at least, that we will see literally hundreds of thousands of cases,” Fisher continued (Worsnip, 11/23).

Jon Kim Andrus, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, said, “Cholera is virtually everywhere in the country,” AFP reports in a separate article. “We need to plan for enough supplies to treat as many as 400,000 cholera cases occurring over the next 12 months,” Andrus added (11/23).

CNN reports that “[s]hort-term efforts are focusing on the distribution of chlorine tablets and oral rehydration salts, which are key to preventing and treating the disease.” Andrus said, “In the long term, we must create the systems and infrastructure to ensure equitable access to these basic services” (11/23).

The U.N. also said on Tuesday “that less than 4 percent of the” funds needed for the cholera outbreak have been pledged, NPR reports (Beaubien, 11/23). “Donors have stumped up only 6.8 million dollars so far out of 164 million dollars sought by the U.N. in an appeal 10 days ago, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,” AFP reports in a third article. Brys said, “The funding is much too weak. It’s an extremely urgent situation, a question of hours. The epidemic is not waiting and continuing to evolve.”

The U.N. stressed the importance of “educating the public about the illness … as some people, including pregnant women, are refusing to go to hospitals for fear of contracting cholera” (11/23).

The AFP/Montreal Gazette reports that “[f]ear has grown that the disease could spread more quickly in an election environment when people have to move around and congregate to campaign. … The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten … urged no delay with the polls, telling a video conference call Tuesday that issues surrounding the disease and the election can be avoided ‘as long as people are informed … of how they can protect themselves from cholera and what treatment to seek’” (Jourdain, 11/23).