Posts Tagged ‘CDC’

UN cholera and protests against UN reach Port-au-Prince

November 19, 2010
Map of Haiti

Haiti: image via Wikipedia

With its official population of 1 million and its estimated population of perhaps 3.5 million with many in refugee camps, Port-au-Prince is particularly susceptible to a cholera epidemic. The hope of containing the outbreak of UN cholera and preventing it from getting established in the capital are fading as more cases appear. Yesterday the protests against the UN also spread to the capital. So far 3 protesters and over 1100 cholera victims have been killed, directly or indirectly, by the UN. The number of infected is officially said to be over 18,000 but in reality may be as many as 100,000.

The BBC reports:

Protests linked to the outbreak of cholera in Haiti have spread to parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Police fired tear gas as demonstrators set up barricades and threw rocks at United Nations vehicles. On Monday, clashes between residents and UN troops in the north had left two people dead. Some Haitians blame UN peacekeepers from Nepal for bringing cholera to the country – a claim denied by the UN. Sporadic gunfire could be heard on Thursday as protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by a massive earthquake in January.

In its latest update, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the course of the disease was “difficult to predict” as it was the first cholera outbreak in Haiti for more than a century.  “The Haitian population has no pre-existing immunity to cholera, and environmental conditions in Haiti are favourable for its continued spread,” it said. The CDC said about 1.3m Haitians remained in camps following the earthquake and the camps’ “ability to provide centrally treated drinking water, adequate sanitation, handwashing facilities, and health care varies”. Just 17% of Haitians had access to adequate sanitation before the quake, the CDC said, adding that the situation had considerably worsened since then. US health experts say Haiti is vulnerable to further outbreaks.

It is thought that the cholera originated from septic tanks at a base for UN peacekeepers from Nepal. While the UN denies this and undercounts the number of cases in a totally misguided public relations exercise, the Swedish sources (Ambassador Claes Hammar and Svenska Dagbladet) are adamant about the UN being the source. Over 80% of people who carry the bacteria show no symptoms and since cholera is endemic in Nepal it is very likely that the troops from Nepal exhibited no symptoms but it is apparent that the UN did not test them to ensure that they were not carriers.

Elections in Haiti are due on November 28th and the UN’s communications “experts” seem to be incompetent. Spinning the truth to under-play the extent of the disease and and to deny responsibility is a fundamental PR mistake.


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