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Haiti Requires Additional Trained Nurses, Doctors To Address Cholera Epidemic, U.N. Official Says

Haiti needs about 1,000 additional trained nurses and at least 100 more physicians to control the cholera epidemic, Valerie Amos, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said during a recent visit to the capital of Port-au-Prince, Reuters reports. “We clearly need to do more,” Amos said of the global response to the cholera outbreak. “But it’s not just money, it’s crucially people, in terms of getting more doctors, nurses, more people who can help with the awareness-raising and getting information out there,” she said. The U.N. plans to work with countries and aid groups that have the capacity to quickly provide more health workers, according to Amos.

U.N. officials estimate the death toll might have already reached 2,000 (Fletcher, 11/24). A Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) spokesperson “told the BBC the disease was spreading so fast that whenever MSF opened a new treatment centre it immediately filled up with patients,” the news organization reports. The spokesperson added that some Haitians who were trying to access treatment were “dying in traffic jams” because roads have been so clogged.

To address the situation, the World Bank announced a new $10 million grant, part of which will be used to support the work of NGOs, the BBC writes (11/25). In a press release, the bank said the emergency grant “will address the cholera epidemic by boosting Haiti’s medical response to the disease while expanding the country’s capacity to monitor and prevent such outbreaks” (11/24).

“In Port-au-Prince, representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Spanish government cooperation agency also announced a $20 million grant for the cholera response,” Reuters reports. So far, the U.N. has said the international response to its $164 million appeal for the cholera epidemic has been insufficient. “Given the billions of dollars that had already been pledged for Haiti’s earthquake recovery, Amos said it was possible some members of the international community did not understand why separate additional funds were needed for the cholera response. ‘Let’s remember: we have fed 1.3 million people (made homeless by the quake), we have given them access to health care, we have given them access to education. Until the cholera outbreak, we hadn’t had a major outbreak of disease,’ she said,” the news service writes (11/24).

Meanwhile the Miami Herald reports on the ongoing situation surrounding the origins of Haiti’s cholera outbreak.

“Despite angry demonstrations in Haiti over rumors that its cholera epidemic grew from a rural camp of United Nations soldiers from Nepal, health experts say pinpointing the source of the disease makes no difference in treating it or preventing it from spreading,” the newspaper writes. Though finding the source of the outbreak isn’t necessary for treatment, some experts “say it is important for political reasons – being candid with the people and making sure that such a wave of infections never happens again,” the Miami Herald writes.

“We don’t know how it got to Haiti, and we may never know,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for CDC. “Cholera moves around the world. You can never say a particular strain originated in a particular country,” he said. On the other hand, U.N. envoy Edmond Mulet said, “It is very important to know if it came from [the Nepalese camp] or not, and someday I hope we will find out” (Tasker/Mack, 11/28). 

Haitian Presidential Elections Conclude With Allegations Of Fraud, Confusion

“Polls closed on schedule around Haiti at 4 p.m. Sunday amid chaos, confusion and isolated instances of violence. Hours earlier, a dozen of the 19 presidential candidates called for ‘peaceful protests’ against ‘massive fraud’ in the country’s presidential and legislative elections,” the Miami Herald reports (Charles/Daniel, 11/29).

On Sunday, Pierre Opont, the director of Haiti’s central electoral body, said the election had “successfully concluded,” CNN reports. But Opont “noted that 56 of the country’s 1,500 polling centers had reported ‘incidents,’ and that the national police reported one death related to the election activities.” In a joint communique, 11 of the presidential candidates “called for the elections to be annulled, raising a serious challenge to the credibility of Haiti’s vote. And they made an appeal to the Haitian people that could lead to trouble in the hours and days to come,” the news service writes (Watson, 11/29).

Vicenzo Pugliese, a spokesperson for the U.N. mission in Haiti, said, “There are high-level discussions with all partners going on about what has happened and what will happen,” the Washington Post reports. Pugliese added, “Let’s see what the outcome of the dialogue is.” According to the newspaper, “U.S. Embassy officials declined to comment on the day’s events but said they were monitoring the situation” (Miroff, 11/29).

Experts Call On U.S. To Stockpile Cholera Vaccine

Matthew Waldor of Harvard Medical School, Peter Hotez of George Washington University and John Clemens, who is director of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in South Korea “on Wednesday urged the United States to create a stockpile of vaccines against cholera, which has taken deadly hold in the impoverished and quake-hit Caribbean nation of Haiti,” Agence France-Presse reports.

“The costs to the U.S. of creating and maintaining a stockpile of several million doses of cholera vaccine would be low … But the humanitarian benefits of rapid deployment of cholera vaccines to areas at high risk for major cholera outbreaks – such as earthquake-wracked Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital where 1.3 million people live in unsanitary refugee camps – could be enormous,” the scientists wrote in a New England Journal of Medicine perspective.

“Having the drugs on hand could also help Washington ‘do its part to promote international stability and peace through vaccine diplomacy,’ the experts said,” the news service writes (11/24).

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