The recent outbreak marks the first time in over a century that cholera has struck Haiti. With nearly 5,000 confirmed cases in the first week alone, the disease has now spread to more than half of Haiti’s ten departments since Oct. 21.
After early hopes that the outbreak was ‘stabilizing,’ news took a turn for the worse this weekend: the death toll reached 500 people amid fears that flooding from the recent Hurricane Tomas would increase cholera infection rates.
The outbreak has also sparked political controversy. MINUSTAH, the UN Mission in Haiti, has a troubled (and many, including Haitians, say troubling) relationship with the people of Haiti. The Nepalese contingent of the UN Mission stands accused of causing the outbreak, which has brought Haitians to the street demanding that Nepalese peacekeepers be sent home.
On the one hand, UN military tests claim to have “cleared” the Nepalese army of suspicion. On the other, cholera experts have cast doubts on the UN’s findings. Despite the ongoing debate, The UN, CDC, and World Health Organization all oppose further investigations because they will detract from the fight against cholera, a claim Paul Farmer has dismissed as pure “politics.”
Responding from Northfield
Haiti activists in Northfield have mobilized to do our small part in response to the outbreak. After receiving a request from a nurse in St. Paul, we purchased, mixed, and packed 600 doses of the dry ingredients for Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), an essential treatment for dehydrated cholera patients. These ORS packets will be departing the US tomorrow, destined for Kenscoff, Haiti.
Please check back later this week for a discussion of the ethics involved in holding this type of “packing event” as a form of giving aid. In the meantime, if you want to help out with relief efforts yourself, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Many of the needed supplies are quite basic (for instance, ORS is simply a mix of sugar, baking soda, and salt), and we can do our best to connect any donations with the communities who need them.