Haiti cholera outbreak 'stabilizing' – but could affect election
The speedy official response to Haiti's cholera outbreak has been hailed as a relative success story, but 10 months after the earthquake Haitians are frustrated with a lack of relief.
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Jason Erb, deputy country director for the International Medical Corps, told CNN that the outbreak could be kept out of the capital. "I think we'll be able to contain it fairly well, but it is a risk, it is a major risk," he was as quoted saying today.Skip to next paragraph
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Agencies were prepared
Aid workers and officials have feared an earthquake or hurricane might hit or disease might emanate from the sprawling tent camps. Cholera, not seen in Haiti in more than a century, was the last thing expected, although aid workers were prepared nevertheless. Antibiotics, dehydration salts, and other supplies were on hand to send in to the affected areas.
The United States declared Haiti’s cholera outbreak a disaster on Sunday, opening the way for emergency funding. The US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has donated 1,000 special cholera beds and an initial $100,000 in emergency support to the Haitian Ministry of Health. The US also dispatched a joint Haitian-US epidemiological team to Saint Marc, the Haitian city at the center of the cholera outbreak.
Highlights water system
While the US government was quick to release aid, some observers fault the US for in the past blocking funds to improve Haiti's water systems. In 2001, in response to the policies of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the US blocked the Inter-American Development Bank from loaning $54 million to assist Haiti's public-water system.
The report "Wòch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti," found that "the United States actively impeded the Haitian government’s capacity to fulfill Haitians' human right to water through its actions, thus breaching its duty to respect human rights."
Margaret Satterthwaite, an associate professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law, who authored the report with Dr. Paul Farmer and several others, says that the money's delay hindered progress, though some of it eventually did go toward improving the water system in Saint Marc.
The incident underscores the international community's failure to put first the interests of Haitians and preference for working with NGOs instead of the Haitian government, says Professor Satterthwaite.
"It’s unacceptable to hold hostage people’s access to water. It has dramatic impact on people’s health and livelihood," she says.