After a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Haiti, Haitians are again facing another problem – cholera. Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, calls for a much stronger international and national response to the cholera epidemic during her visit in Haiti.
Her call for international support was based on World Health Organization’s and its regional arm, Pan-American Health Organization’s findings on how fast the cholera epidemic is spreading. The cholera outbreak began in late October and it is feared it could affect 400,000 people.
“This projection is a wake-up call,” Amos said during her stay in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.
Although a preventable and treatable disease, the cholera outbreak and its projected impact are considered the worst of possible scenarios. If not prevented, the spread of the outbreak could be tremendously devastating.
Amos saw some of the humanitarian work that is being done and recognized the saved tens of thousands of lives. However, she still stressed the need to invest in cholera prevention nationwide. This means building more treatment facilities and increasing the number of health workers on the ground.
“It is not enough to curb the loss of life, or equip Haitians to tackle this crisis themselves,” she said. “This epidemic has not yet peaked. If we don’t respond strongly and quickly enough then more people will die needlessly.”
As of Monday, the death toll stood at 1,200. Experts, however, said that the epidemic might have claimed as many as 2,000 with some fatalities in remote areas left unreported. The epidemic is spreading through contaminated food and water and the number of those who have been infected is approaching 50,000.
The UN and its partners have appealed for $164 million in financial assistance. This will be used for the needed additional treatment centers, medical equipments, rehydration salts, water purification tablets, and other essential materials to respond to the outbreak. More important, is to scale-up its public information campaigns to help Haitians understand how they could prevent infection.