Cholera spreads in Haïti amid fuel restrictions and gang violence

11 Jan 2023 by The Water Diplomat

More than 1,260 cases of cholera have been confirmed in Haiti and more than 290 deaths have been recorded, according to the latest figures released in December 2022 by UNICEF. Haiti is one of ten countries in the world suffering from a food crisis, according to the United Nations.  More than three years after the end of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the waterborne disease reappeared in early October 2022 in a country facing a serious security and humanitarian crisis.

In response, the Pan American Health Organization is coordinating with Haitian public health authorities to support the response, as "gang violence continues to affect Port-au-Prince and other cities," making access to affected areas difficult, the UN said on its website. About 70,000 gallons of fuel are needed to serve 9 of the 16 cholera treatment centres in Port-au-Prince and some partner hospitals. So far, UNICEF has been able to obtain only one-third of this amount, putting the lives of many women and children affected by cholera at risk. Access by health staff to suspected cases in communities is a major challenge, preventing the monitoring, surveillance and reporting of cholera cases.  A key statement was made by Bruno Maes, UNICEF Representative in Haiti: "When you are unable to get clean water from the tap in your home, when you don't have soap or water purification tablets, and when you don't have access to health services, you may not survive cholera or other waterborne diseases. The devastating impact of fuel restrictions and violence has made children the main victims of the epidemic. 

On 15 November, the UN and its partners continued to mobilize with a humanitarian appeal for $145.6 million to support the country's emergency response to the new wave of cholera and provide life-saving assistance to 1.4 million people living in the most affected areas. On 22 December 2022, UN Under-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed addressed the Security Council on Haiti. She stressed that it was time to step up and turn the current crisis into an opportunity for Haiti and its people to bounce back stronger. In her speech, she described how "insecurity and violence have increased in the country this year. "Haiti really needs international support to get back on track towards sustainable development, stability, democracy and peace," continued UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.  The economic situation is also catastrophic, she said. The mission, she reassured, continues its efforts to advance political dialogue through the national consensus document.

On the ground, in early December, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched an urgent appeal for $3.2 million to continue to respond to this deadly epidemic and the disastrous situation of the displaced population in the country, reports the media Haiti Libre.  "Urgent action must be taken to save lives," said Philippe Branchat, IOM's Chief of Mission in Haiti, who added that inaction could have devastating consequences for thousands of people already living in very difficult conditions. With this appeal, IOM will continue to work with the Ministry of Public Health, the National Directorate of Water, Sanitation and Potable Water (DINEPA) and other partners to ensure the continuity of essential services, such as the provision of clean drinking water to displacement sites. Despite this worrying situation, UNICEF believes that the vicious circle between malnutrition and cholera can be broken, especially, the organization says, as simple, affordable and effective treatment can save the lives of Haitian children, provided that the most vulnerable families are reached before it is too late.