NEW YORK – Fortune has not been kind to Haiti. The pain and suffering arising from last year’s earthquake was already enormous, and has since been compounded by Hurricane Tomas and an outbreak of cholera. Now there is growing tension surrounding the just completed election.
That epidemic has spread to all ten departments of the country, as well as to the capital, Port au Prince. The Haitian Ministry of Public Health reports that the number of deaths is approaching 2,000, with the number of infections exceeding 80,000. Because many people do not have easy access to hospitals and clinics, these figures are rough estimates at best. United Nations teams fear that the actual number of deaths and current infections may in fact be up to twice as high.
Clearly, the epidemic will continue to spread. This is a function of a particularly virulent strain of cholera and underlying issues: a weak national health system, poor sanitary conditions, and a lack of clean water and other basic services. The World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) estimate that the outbreak could affect some 400,000 people.