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Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak Has Plateaued, Death Rate Remains High In Rural Regions, U.N. Says

The U.N. on Friday said Haiti’s cholera outbreak appears to be waning overall, but high death rates from the virus in rural regions of the country remain a concern, the Associated Press reports. According to figures released by the Haitian government, 231,070 cholera cases and 4,549 deaths from the disease have been reported since the outbreak first emerged in October.

“National mortality rates from cholera are down to 2 percent, from as high as 9 percent earlier, but in some rural areas, more than one-in-ten people who contract the disease die,” the news service writes. “In Haiti’s Sud Est region, the mortality rate hit 10.7 percent as of Feb. 9, while in Nippes it was 6.7 percent and in the Grande Anse region, 5.9 percent. The rate should be under 1 percent, according to the World Health Organization,” the news service reports. U.N. officials also have expressed concerns that the country’s upcoming Carnival season could lead to an uptick in cholera cases (2/18).

The U.N. on Monday held “a special meeting with donor countries to drum up support for its cholera treatment and control operations in Haiti,” according to VOA News (Schlein, 2/21).

The organization “has appealed for 175 million dollars to help treat the outbreak, but donors have so far only given about 45 percent [roughly $80 million] of the funds needed,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports. According to the news service, the funding shortage was forcing some NGOs “to shut some of their projects in the country, including programmes providing for the chlorination of drinking-water wells in the capital Port-au-Prince. Cholera is often spread through contaminated water sources” (2/18).

VOA News describes the U.N.’s efforts to meet the needs on the ground to stop the spread of disease while also encouraging donor countries to help fill the funding gap to treat the cholera outbreak. According to the news service, “WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib says her agency is working with the Haitian Ministry of Health to replace NGOs that were running cholera centers,” which she “says … are increasingly being integrated in the country’s overall health-management programs” (2/21).

Chaib is quoted by the AP as saying the U.N. plans to continue its efforts in Haiti until the country’s mortality rate from cholera dips “under 1 percent” (2/18). World Radio Switzerland features an interview with Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in which she addresses NGOs leaving Haiti, the need for donor countries to fill the funding gap to boost cholera treatment in the country and the impact of cholera on Haiti’s food security (2/21).

SMS Helps Track Water Supply Safety

Scientific American reports on a program set to launch in Haiti that will enable health workers to track how successful families are at making their drinking water clean by treating it with chlorine. Although “microbe-killing chlorine” offers “the most promising short-term solution” to prevent the spread of cholera, the article notes “aid workers often have difficulty reaching families in rural Haiti to ensure they have enough … chlorine and are using it properly. Without regular visits – every month or so – rural Haitians typically revert to drinking unclean water, which helps spread cholera and other diarrheal infections.”

To assist health workers with tracking how well families are treating their drinking water, Deep Springs International (DSI), a nonprofit based in Leogane, together with the Nokia Corporation and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health “create[d] a mobile data-gathering platform” that enables wireless testing of an at-home water supply, Scientific American writes.

The magazine describes why groups focus on treating water at homes rather than at the source, the strategy used to treat the water, and describes how DSI’s efforts may one day be able to be integrated with the efforts of Haiti’s water and sanitation authority. The article includes quotes by Joseph Kaye, a senior research scientist and ethnographer at Nokia Research Center, and Michael Ritter, national program officer and CEO of DSI (Greenemeier, 2/18).

Telegraph Examines Efforts To Stop Child Trafficking

The Telegraph examines what aid groups are doing to protect Haitian children living in temporary camps from being sold to traffickers. In some cases, the children fall victim to prostitution, while in other cases they end up being adopted illegally, according to the newspaper. The article describes how the charity Brigade de Protection des Mineurs (BPM), with funding support from UNICEF, began working with the Haitian police to monitor “the camps and Haitian borders to pinpoint vulnerable children,” according to the article.

The article notes how BPM’s work has helped lead to the arrests of 35 people “on suspicion of offences relating to kidnapping,” but notes “under current legislation, there is no law against trafficking in Haiti.” According to the Telegraph, UNICEF “is working with the Haitian government to try and introduce anti-trafficking laws.”

The article elaborates on how the traffickers are able to obtain the children, and describes a situation where a woman sold several of her children from the temporary camps in Haiti. The article includes quotes from a UNICEF spokeswoman and several officials with BPM (Milner/Gammell, 2/21).

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