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Haitian Death Toll Climbs To 230,000, Government Says

The death toll from the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti has risen to 230,000, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, the country’s communications minister, said on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. She said the new number is only an estimate and it does not include people who had private burials and were buried by family members. The death toll is higher than the previous estimate of 212,000 and the government says some bodies still have not been counted (2/9).

“The new figure gives the quake the same death toll as the 2004 Asian tsunami. It comes as aid groups warned that disease could kill hundreds more in the second phase of the country’s medical emergency,” the Telegraph reports (2/10). According to a second AP article, “The second stage of Haiti’s medical emergency has begun, with diarrheal illnesses, acute respiratory infections and malnutrition beginning to claim lives by the dozen.” The article looks at deaths and health risks since the earthquake.

Although there has not yet been an outbreak of infectious diseases, health officials are concerned about epidemics, the news service writes. “The number of deaths not directly caused by the quake is unclear; U.N. officials are only now beginning to survey the more than 200 international medical aid groups working out of 91 hospitals – most of them just collections of tents – to compile the data. Some 300,000 people are injured. At Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital, patients continue arriving with infections in wounds they can’t keep clean because the street is their home. The number of amputees, estimated at 2,000 to 4,000 by Handicap International, keeps rising as people reach Port-au-Prince with untreated fractures,” the AP reports, adding that violence resulting from food shortages has also created casualties (Bajak, 2/9).

Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said it could take up to 10 years to rebuild 250,000 homes that were destroyed in the quake, Reuters reports. He said it could take the nation three to four years to get back to a level comparable to before the quake. About a month after the earthquake, “Haiti remains in a precarious situation with no clear idea of how to house 1 million people living in the streets,” Reuters writes.

“Planning for shelters and new homes is not far along and the number of spontaneous tent encampments around the city – where most Haitians are living under plastic tarps or cloth bedsheets – has grown to nearly 500, Bellerive said. ‘We are still in a very difficult situation,’ Bellerive told Reuters. ‘We still don’t have a clear vision of certain problems – how we are going to relocate all those people'” (Loney, 2/9).

In related news, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently said that just 6 percent of post-earthquake nutritional funds for women and children in Haiti have been fulfilled, IRIN reports. Though the U.N.’s $576.9 million Jan. 15 appeal is 92.9 percent funded, OCHA said in a statement that “some sectors of the relief effort have received little funding so far.”

According to IRIN, “Aside from nutrition, these include security (6 percent funded) and agriculture (8 percent). The flash appeal calls for $48 million for nutrition for women and children, the third-largest sum for a sector after food aid ($246 million) and water, sanitation and hygiene ($58 million)” (2/9). 

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.