PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- On Tuesday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) appealed for $145.6 million to help Haiti contain the outbreak, which began in early October, and provides much-needed assistance to its citizens.
According to the Haitian public health department, more than 7,200 people have been hospitalized with cholera in Haiti and at least 155 have died as of Saturday. Despite this, the real numbers are believed to be higher due to underreporting.
U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ulrika Richardson, said in Tuesday’s statement, “Cholera is a preventable and treatable disease, and based on their experience and expertise, national institutions quickly put together a response strategy with the determined support of the entire local and international humanitarian community.”
“However, the surge in cases in recent weeks and the rapid spread of cholera in the country is worrying,” Richardson said.
In the wake of Jovenel Moise’s assassination in Port-au-Prince last year, gang violence and instability have complicated Haiti’s response to the cholera outbreak.
Following a gang blockade of a petrol terminal in the capital that began in September, water and electricity shortages crippled the Haitian healthcare system and experts warned that the country faced a “time bomb for cholera”.
A cholera infection is triggered by the contamination of water or food with cholera bacteria, resulting in diarrhea, vomiting, and thirst. Additionally, it spreads rapidly in areas without proper sewage treatment and clean water supply.
The last case of cholera in Haiti occurred more than three years ago, as part of a 2010 outbreak associated with United Nations peacekeepers that killed about 10,000 people and infected more than 820,000.
Across Haiti, that outbreak was linked to a sewage leak from a U.N. peacekeeping base, which caused widespread condemnation and distrust of the international agency. A UN apology was issued in 2016 for its involvement in the epidemic.
In early October, a World Health Organization official said the organization requested cholera vaccines for Haiti.
As part of its support for Haiti’s government, WHO’s Americas branch, the Pan American Health Organization, is preparing a vaccine request and planning and implementing vaccination campaigns. The timing and likelihood of that happening are unclear.
Thousands of Haitians are at risk of contracting cholera due to crippling poverty and a lack of sanitation and clean water. The WHO has warned that up to 500,000 people are at risk.