(HN, November 17, 2010) - The number of cholera cases in Haiti is expected to rise significantly beyond the latest figure of 11,000 as case monitoring improves and as health officials try to get ahead of an epidemic that is already causing political instability ahead of the November 28 presidential elections.
Cholera cases have now been found in every Haiti province, known as departments, as well as the capital Port-au-Prince. So far in Haiti, more than 11,000 cases have been cited and about 1000 people have died from the disease.
UN officials said as data collection improves, numbers will inevitably rise.
"We expect to have, once that data comes in, a significant increase in recorded cases. So people should not be surprised at that," said Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti.
Fisher said emphasis is continuing on educating the public about the disease and making sure they have access to oral rehydration salts and tablets to chlorinate their water. Plans are also being made to increase the number of cholera treatment centers across the country. 'It is [cholera] spreading and we have to contain, if not [the] number of cases, we have to try to contain the number of deaths," he said.
Today, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said there are "acute deficiencies" in the well-established preventative actions that are essential to controlling the spread of the epidemic. It said activities such as the distribution of clean drinking water, positioning of oral rehydration points in affected communities, waste removal, and safe burial of victims of the epidemic, all remain far below the needs.
UN officials fear the outbreak may be used by some faction to increase instability: on Monday protestors directed their anger at UN peacekeeping forces - claiming UN personnel were responsible for importing cholera into the country.
Separately, health officials have confirmed the first case of cholera in Haiti's neighbour, the Dominican Republic.
In Geneva yesterday Fadéla Chaib of the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was a scientific consensus that cholera will remain an issue in Haiti for several years to come. WHO is preparing for more cases, mostly in remote areas, opening new treatment centers. Several levels of assistance are being offered to cholera-affected people, Chaib said, underscoring that mild cases are being treated at the community level and serious ones referred to cholera treatment centers. Social mobilization and education efforts are now very important, given that many Haitians were very scared and know little about cholera.
Last week, the UN launched a new $163.8 million appeal for Haiti. Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it is intended for the purchase water purification tablets and rehydration salts, to increase the number of medical staff and to train medical personnel.