Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cholera and the UN

Friends,
You have all no doubt heard about the cholera outbreak, which is continuing to spread in Haiti. You may have heard reports that people were blaming the United Nations soldiers (a Nepalese unit) for starting the outbreak by having a toilet that was leaking sewage into the Artibonite River, which is where the disease broke out. Then, scientists confirmed that the cholera strain in Haiti, very strangely, matched a strain previously only known in South Asia.

I get an email every day called Medex Hotspots, a global intelligence and security report. Here's their latest brief (and remember we visited Cap Haitien last April with the seniors on their class trip):

AMERICAS
Haiti (Country threat level - 4): On 15 November 2010 residents in the cities of Cap-Haitien and Hinche in northern and central Haiti held protests over the government’s failure to control an ongoing cholera outbreak. In Cap-Haitien, approximately 1,000 people gathered near the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission base and threatened to set fire to the facility. The unrest broke out at 0600 local time and lasted throughout the day, as participants threw rocks at soldiers and blocked roads. The rioting shut down roads throughout the city and also forced Cap-Haitien International Airport (MTCH/CAP) to close; the status of the airport on 16 November is unknown. Protesters also reportedly looted a World Food Program warehouse. U.N. soldiers and Haitian police officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, and at least one person was killed during an exchange of gunfire in Cap-Haitien’s Quartier Morin neighborhood; 12 others were injured. Meanwhile, approximately 400 people rioted in Hinche, injuring at least seven U.N. peacekeepers.

More than 900 people have died from cholera and 14,600 others have been infected since the outbreak began in late October 2010. The protesters blame Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers for importing the water-borne disease, which had never before been documented in Haiti. The suspicions stem from reports that the cholera strain currently affecting Haiti matches a strain that is specific to South Asia. Health officials have appealed to residents for calm, stating that they have not yet confirmed the source of the outbreak. Cases have been confirmed in all of Haiti’s 10 provinces, including in Port-au-Prince, where 27 deaths have been recorded. The outbreak began in Artibonite province. Health officials believe that the disease will affect as many as 270,000 people by the time the outbreak reaches its peak.


Katie

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