Ten months after the earthquake which destroyed much of Haiti, and just days after Hurricane Tomas hit the island, doctors fear an unstoppable epidemic of cholera.
Nearly 600 people have already died in the countryside; now at least 73 cases have been confirmed in the capital Port-au-Prince itself, and Haiti’s Health Ministry says cholera is a threat to the entire nation. Damage to the city’s already miserable pre-earthquake sanitation and water system make conditions perfect for the disease.
“We know that, before this, Port-au-Prince was, for the most part, a large urban slum with very poor water and sanitation conditions, said Dr Jon K Andrus, the deputy Director of the Pan-American Health Organisation. “So this is ripe for the rapid spread of cholera. We expect transmission to be extensive.”
Cholera is a water-borne disease, thriving in the unsanitary conditions in the tented camps sheltering Haiti’s earthquake survivors.
It is treatable with clean water or intravenous drips, but with more than a million people living in such basic conditions, and with field hospitals all-but overwhelmed, doctors are increasingly pessimistic.