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Entries in Cholera (13)

Friday
Mar092012

Clinton Admits UN Source of Haiti Cholera Outbreak

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, offered the strongest statements to date acknowledging the role U.N. peacekeepers are believed to have played in the deadly outbreak of cholera in quake-ravaged Haiti.

During a tour of a hospital there this week, Clinton was pressed on the U.N.'s role in an outbreak that has killed more than 7,000 Haitians -- a politically-charged topic for more than a year now, with the U.N. repeatedly refusing to accept responsibility for the outbreak despite mounting scientific evidence that international peacekeepers were the most likely culprits.

"I don't know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus," Clinton said, adding that "it was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians."

Clinton went on to say that he believes what "really caused" the outbreak was the country's dismal sanitary conditions. "Unless we know that he knew or that they knew, the people that sent him, that he was carrying that virus and therefore that he could cause the amount of death and misery and sickness, I think it's better to focus on fixing it."

In a statement to ABC News, U.N. spokesperson Kieran Dwyer said, "In relation to former President Clinton's reported remarks to the press this week in Haiti, we note that he emphasized the importance of focusing on improving Haiti's sanitation system and the fact that the United Nations and others are working hard to do this." Dwyer added that in 2011, over three million people received water supplies, water treatment products, water filtering systems and sanitation materials from United Nations agencies and its humanitarian partners.

In January, ABC News reported on compelling scientific evidence suggesting a United Nations peacekeeper from Nepal carried the virulent strain of cholera to a remote village in October 2010, and dumping of raw sewage from the UN encampment sent the disease into a key water supply for Haitians. In addition to killing 7,000 people, more than 500,000 Haitians have been infected in Haiti.

Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that they felt confident they had traced the strain back to Nepal, and that they believe it was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as U.N. peacekeepers after the earthquake that ravaged the country on Jan. 12, 2010. Haiti had never seen a case of cholera until the arrival of the peacekeepers, who allegedly failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their base.

"What scares me is that the strain from South Asia has been recognized as more virulent, more capable of causing severe disease, and more transmissible," said John Mekalanos, who chairs the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School. "These strains are nasty. So far there has been no secondary outbreak. But Haiti now represents a foothold for a particularly dangerous variety of this deadly disease."

The U.N. had previously repeatedly said there exists no conclusive evidence fingering peacekeepers for the outbreak. The international organization has already faced hostility from Haitians who believe peacekeeping troops have abused local residents without consequence. They now face legal action from relatives of victims who have petitioned the U.N. for restitution. And the cholera charge could further hamper the U.N.'s ability to work effectively there, two years after the country was hobbled by the earthquake.

Over the summer, Assistant Secretary General Anthony Banbury told ABC News that the U.N. sincerely wanted to know if it played a part in the outbreak, but independent efforts to answer that question had not succeeded. He said the disease could have just as easily been carried by a backpacker or civilian aid worker.

Banbury said the U.N., through both its peacekeeping mission and its civilian organizations "are working very hard ... to combat the spread of the disease and bring assistance to the people. And that's what's important now."

"The scientists say it can't be determined for certainty where it came from," Banbury said. "So we don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not. That's the bottom line."

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research called Clinton's comments an important first step toward accountability.

"President Clinton's acknowledgement, as a U.N. official, should bring us one step closer to the U.N. taking responsibility for what it has done, and fixing it." Weisbrot said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov082011

UN Peacekeepers Caused Cholera in Haiti, Group Says

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- More than half a million Haitians have contracted cholera, and an advocacy group has filed a complaint with the United Nations blaming the fast-moving epidemic on UN peacekeepers who allegedly allowed raw sewage to leach into a tributary of the nation's largest river.

After half a century without a single case of cholera, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti says, a country already ravaged by a massive 7.0 earthquake, intractable poverty and waves of political instability has now seen five percent of the population contract the illness, and more than 6,000 people die from it, because of the reckless actions of peacekeepers from Nepal.

"The sickness, death, and ongoing harm from cholera suffered by Haiti's citizens are a product of the UN's multiple failures," states the complaint filed by the advocacy group, which represents more than 5,000 cholera victims and their families. "These failures constitute negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians."

The allegations, announced during a press conference Tuesday, are liable to further heighten tensions between the Haitian people and the more than 7,000 United Nations peacekeepers stationed there on a mission to protect them.

In September, ABC News reported on a cell phone video that allegedly showed the brutal assault of a young man at the hands of UN peacekeeping troops from Uruguay. The video sparked street protests and an outcry from Haitians who objected to the lack of accountability for the brigades of blue-helmeted troops that lived on bases inside the country.

While the assault on the Haitian man tapped into what Haitians interviewed by ABC News called a growing sense of distrust of the UN mission there, the cholera outbreak has had more far-reaching and catastrophic implications for the country. The complaint filed Tuesday estimates that more than 457,000 have been infected, some 6,477 have died, and attempts to corral the outbreak have so far proven unsuccessful.

"Once cholera is introduced, it is extremely difficult to eradicate," the complaint says. "The cholera epidemic is expected to persist in Haiti for at least several years."

In an interview with ABC News in September, a top UN official said his organization was deeply concerned about the outbreak, and was devoting resources to combat it. But he did not believe there was conclusive proof that the UN troops were responsible for carrying cholera into Haiti.

Anthony Banbury, the assistant secretary general for field support, told ABC News that the UN commissioned four independent research studies with the goal of tracing the origins of the outbreak, but that it remained unclear if the troops were to blame, or if a backpacker or aid worker or tourist was ultimately at fault.

"We don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not," Banbury said. "That's the bottom line."

The Institute for Democracy in Haiti lays out its case in a 37-page complaint, which it filed with the UN under the rules established when the international body first deployed peacekeepers to Haiti. It describes how cholera is endemic in Nepal, how new Nepalese troops arrived in the village of Meille in October of 2010, how the troops failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their encampment, how witnesses described dark plumes of refuse leaching into a major waterway, and how cholera exploded in the region near the Meille camp in the weeks after their arrival.

Further, it cites numerous independent studies that match the strain of cholera to the one in Nepal using DNA and other evidence. One study, published in the medical journal The Lancet in July, found that all the evidence pointed to the Nepalese UN troops.

"There was an exact correlation in time and places between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in Meille a few days after," said the study by leading epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux. "The remoteness of Meille in central Haiti and the absence of report of other incomers make it unlikely that a cholera strain might have been brought there another way."

The advocacy group has asked the UN to empanel an independent claims commission to review their complaint, and award them a financial judgment to compensate victims for their suffering and economic losses. They are also seeking a greater investment by the UN in efforts to eradicate the deadly disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May142011

Fighting Cholera and Dirty Water in Earthquake-Ravaged Haiti

Thinkstock/Getty Images(PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti) -- On Saturday, former carnival singer Michel Martelly takes over the presidency of Haiti as that country continues to struggle with water-borne diseases like cholera following the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country in 2010.

Five thousand people have died in Haiti from cholera since the outbreak began in October 2010, according to United Nations officials.

World Water Relief, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, is a small group of dedicated humanitarians trying to fix the problem of dirty water in Haiti by installing clean water systems, but even more effectively by teaching kids how to wash their hands. So far, World Water Relief's cholera prevention program has taught basic hygiene classes in 100 schools and has reached 30,000 students in Haiti.

Although millions of dollars were donated in the terrifying aftermath of the earthquake, the country has still not significantly recovered.

"When I started going to down to the [region] doing medical mission work, I quickly realized that you can treat all these problems with medicine, but the real problem is that people don't have access to clean water," Dr. Kevin Fussell, vice chairman of the board for World Water Relief told ABC News.

Globally, more than 3.5 million people die each year from waterborne illnesses like cholera, according to World Water Relief. More than 80 percent of those who die from those diseases are children.

A deadly outbreak of cholera struck Haiti in October 2010, stemming from the unsanitary conditions that continue to plague Haitians.

"We were in Haiti [in fall 2010] when the cholera epidemic broke out, so it was really important to teach kids really basic hygiene," Tim Douglas, an education coordinator for World Water Relief, told ABC News. That involved teaching "when to wash your hands, how to wash your food, use a latrine, clean the latrine -- really basic stuff. But you realize it's difficult to do there, because you want to wash your hands but there's no clean water."

World Water Relief buys water filtration systems from a company called PURAUV, which sells ultraviolet water filtration systems. It installs large, 300-gallon tanks so that even if electricity cuts out, the purified water will flow out through the force of gravity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan122011

One Year After Haiti's Quake: Rubble Clogs Capital, Cholera Babies

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti) --  One year after a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, its capital, Port-au-Prince, is hard at work trying to rebuild itself.

Projects create dust on every street corner, but many are privately funded and done piecemeal, often using the same rusted rebar that failed Haitians the first time.

It is estimated about 700 million-cubic-feet of rubble have yet to be cleared, enough to fill six Superdomes.  Only 10 percent of the rubble has been removed.  It is Haiti's biggest challenge, Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerieve told ABC News Wednesday.

The prime minister said the bulk of the rubble cleared -- enough to open most of the city's shattered  streets -- was paid for by the government, although most of the removal ABC News has witnessed in four trips over the past year resulted from private initiatives -- most often Haitians using shovels, picks and buckets.

Aside from rubble, the country is still facing many other challenges.

Bellerieve told ABC News the government has revised its previous estimate of the death toll from 230,000 to 316,000, meaning about three percent of Haiti's entire population died.

Haiti has yet to elect a new president, and it's voters continue to wait for the results of the disputed Nov. 29 elections.  The runoff for the three putative front runners -- the wife of a former president, with scant political experience, a former hip hop star, and a government anointed successor with a checkered past -- has been postponed to March, all under the threat of violence.

Following the quake, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Tomas, rekindling a cholera outbreak that claimed the lives of over 3,600 people.  Pregnant women and their newborns are still fighting and dying from the infection, and only one full service maternity hospital, run by the emergency relief group Doctors Without Borders, exists in the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec092010

USAID Awards $5.8 Million to Aid Haiti’s Cholera Fight

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – USAID has announced they would provide $5.8 million to fight the cholera outbreak in Haiti.

On Thursday, the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance said they would provide the grant to the International Medical Corps (IMC) to aid in the treatment and prevention of nearly 1.3 million people and address areas where there are existing gaps in coverage.

IMC will use the funds to open eight treatment centers, seven mobile medical units and several rehydration points.

The grant will also go toward prevention through health education. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

DR Treated Isolated Case of Cholera, Country Safe to Visit

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(SANTA DOMINGO) – The Dominican Republic has reassured travelers that they have diagnosed and treated an isolated cholera case that originated in Haiti and that the nation is safe to visit.

The DR Ministry of Tourism said they have treated a cholera case that was contracted by a citizen who traveled to Haiti to visit family, and have put steps in place to prevent the disease from spreading to the country.
 
The ministry said they are working with the U.S. and other international partners to respond to the outbreak in Haiti, but are confident that the disease will not spread to the Dominican Republic.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

CDC Reports on Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(ATLANTA) – A report by the CDC Thursday gives better insight into how the cholera outbreak in Haiti began, and what the future of the outbreak may bring.

Data from the report indicates that only 63 percent of the country had access to “improved” drinking water -- even prior to the earthquake in January -- while just 12 percent had piped, treated water. The earthquake only exacerbated the situation, as around 2.3 million Haitians were displaced and the risk of waterborne illness increased.
 
Sanitation levels were also very low, with only 17 percent having adequate sanitation as of 2008.

Despite a quick emergency repose by the Haitian government, the CDC expects cholera cases to continue to spread and increase substantially even as systems to track the cases improve.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Saturday
Nov132010

Little Has Changed Since Haiti Quake, Aid Workers Blame Corruption

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti) -- Port au Prince is a city frozen in Jan 12, 2010. Haitians refer to the earthquake as "the 12th." No other description is necessary. How could something so evident everywhere you look be forgotten? Incredibly, life goes on: children go to school, markets are packed, there's even evidence of a few repaired homes. But if there's a pervading architectural theme, it remains: destruction.

Life goes on, but the city looks the same. These days the destruction seems invisible to Haitians, but screams out to visitors. Bacteria, wind and time have carted off the stench of rotting bodies, but no one has taken away all the debris. The presidential palace remains a sandwich of roof and ground floor -- everything in between now mashed inside.

There has been little progress. The UN has built fewer than 18,000 temporary shelters and about 150 permanent structures since the quake.

Some of the 1.3 million living in tent cities partly administered by the UN live better now than before. They now have access to clean water, latrines and often some sort of medical care. Those who live in the fetid slum called Cite Soleil, have little or no clean water, little food, almost no access to medical care, and essentially live in sewage every time the canal overflows. Many eat a single meal every day or two.

Why so little progress? International aid workers blame Haiti's red tape and the scattering of those with experience and corruption. Many government bureaucrats were killed in the quake, many of the survivors who could afford to do so left the country, and others who stayed took much more lucrative jobs with the non-government organizations.

And all of that now has a direct impact on the cholera epidemic. The government estimates there are now about 10,000 cases in Haiti, and about 650 deaths. The Haiti Epidemic Advisory System estimates there are likely 50,000 Haitians with cholera now, and thousands of deaths. Some are unable to get to clinics. The survival rate for those who receive treatment is 99 percent. The survival rate for those who don't is only 40 percent.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Cholera Cases in Haiti May be Grossly Underestimated

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images(HAITI) -- As medical units in north Haiti become inundated with cholera patients, some are concerned the number infected may be well beyond current figures.

Official statistics show the number infected just below 10,000, with the number of cholera-related deaths near 650. The Haiti Epidemic Advisory System, however, believes those numbers are grossly underestimated, likely by a factor of five.

They believe that there are around 50,000 active cases in Haiti, which means that there are about 150,000-200,000 carriers.

Reports on the ground depict a shortage of supplies to treat an overwhelming number of patients. Meanwhile, the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh will send a team to Haiti to assist with cholera treatment and control.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Cholera Spreading North in Haiti

Photo Courtesy - Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images(LEOGANE, Haiti) -- Officials in Haiti tell ABC News that cholera is spreading to the north and is now "endemic" to Haiti.  Ted Steinhauer is directing Medical Teams International's operations in Haiti and spoke with ABC News from a hospital in the tiny town of Gros Morne, where he said there are 600 cholera patients.  He said there are likely thousands more in the mountainous north and northwest.

Steinhauer said the disease has entered the water supply. It first bloomed last month in the Artibonite valley, a big rice farming area. The rice workers carried it up to the mountains where they live. There is little sanitation up there and no latrines, so they defecate in creeks and streams. The flooding from Hurricane Tomas just spread everything out.

Medical teams are still assessing the situation, and the U.N. said it could be four days before they can confirm the new outbreak. They said there’s “severe diarrhea” in several parts of the country.

Cholera is easily survivable if the sick are treated quickly.  

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio