By: Tony Best
Haiti, a Caribbean nation that has endured more tragedies in recent years than any of its Western Hemisphere neighbors is facing yet another calamity, a resurgence of the cholera epidemic that has so far taken at least 7,400 lives.
The World Health Organization is predicting that as many as 112,000 Haitians at home may come down with the disease in 2012. The cholera outbreak erupted in October 2010, sickening almost 600,000 people, killing more than 7,000 people there. It occurred about nine months after a devastating earthquake struck the Creole-speaking nation. More than 200,000 people were killed in the natural disaster. At least 1.2 million Haitians were left homeless.
“The resurgence of the cholera outbreak is particularly worrying since non-governmental organizations which responded at the beginning of the epidemic are phasing out due their operations due to the lack of funding,” said Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General. “As a consequence, the support for the transfer of responsibilities to the Ministry of Health, as foreseen in the national strategy, has decreased as has the capacity for the effective treatment of cholera cases.”
Haitians are convinced that the infectious disease which causes severe diarrhea and can lead to dehydration and death was taken to their country by Nepalese solders that are part of the UN troops there. Haitians and some independent foreign health experts insist the cholera strain found in Haiti was similar to that seen in Nepal and other parts of Asia. It is widely accepted that UN troops contaminated a river and the water supply of hundreds of thousands of residents of a rural communities in Haiti.
But Cholera and the unfinished rehabilitation work promised by the international community after the January 2010 earthquake demolished much of the country’s infrastructure, leaving $10 billion in damage in its wake aren’t the only troubles facing Haiti.
It is struggling to cope with the damage caused by last month’s Tropical Storm Isaac that struck the southeastern and western parts of the country. Many of the 24 people lost their lives in the winds, rains and flooding while others were either electrocuted or were crushed to death by falling debris. Five people were killed in the Dominican Republic.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ki-Moon told the powerful UN body that Haiti was still trying to pull itself from under the debris of the earthquake and he described conditions in the tent cities where almost 400,000 live are worsening instead of improving.
“Living conditions in camps where sanitation standards are inadequate and extremely vulnerable to natural hazards as well as to acute diarrheal infections and cholera, “ said the Secretary-General. “Over 230,000 internally displaced persons are projected to still be living in camps by the end of 2012.”
While recommending that the UN should extend the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Haiti for another year, Ban Ki-Moon proposed that peacekeeping known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, be reduced by 1,710, falling to 8,871. He wants the reduction to be completed by June next year. They are to hand over their security duties to the country’s national police.
MINUSTA has been in Haiti since 2004 and its main task was to aid the country’s poorly equipped and trained national police. Its responsibilities were increased after the earthquake when the country was thrown into a chaotic state and during the presidential and legislative election that were marred by fraud and irregularities. Some 10,000 peacekeepers are now in Haiti and Ban Ki-Moon thinks further cuts in the UN operations there wouldn’t hurt the country.