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USAID Official Discusses Agency’s Efforts To Address Cholera In Haiti

A USAID official said Tuesday that potential violence following the release of Haiti’s final presidential election results could interfere with efforts to contain the country’s cholera epidemic, CBC News reports. “What we all worry about is if there is violence again and it disrupts for a couple of days,” said Mark Ward, acting director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. “That’s my biggest headache right now,” he added.

“Release of final results in the disputed Nov. 28 election are on hold until an international panel of experts can review the vote, marred by accusations of fraud and low voter turnout. Haiti’s electoral commission was expected to release the tally Monday, but acquiesced to requests to allow international observers to review the vote. No new date is set for the release,” the news service writes (Hildebrandt, 12/21).

Ward recently visited Port-au-Prince “to learn more about the U.S. government’s role in helping Haiti fight the cholera outbreak,” according to an update on the U.S. Embassy in Haiti’s website (12/17).

“As the country remains on standby, USAID is busy stocking clinics with cholera treatment supplies in anticipation of violent protests similar to those that [already] erupted,” according to CBC News. “We’re trying to empty out our warehouses and make sure that clinics where people are closest to those suffering are well stocked should there be a disruption,” Ward said. Health facilities have treated more than 121,000 cases of cholera and Ward said that was a positive development. “That’s a big burden on the medical system in Haiti but it’s a good number because it means that people are taking this seriously now and if something’s not right, they are going to get it checked out,” Ward said on a conference call.

A big challenge in addressing the cholera epidemic is reaching populations in rural areas that can’t easily access care, according to Ward. “To tackle that, USAID said it has trained nearly 10,000 community health workers to go door-to-door to teach households about cholera prevention. The federal U.S. agency is also setting up mobile treatment facilities,” the news service reports. Ward focused on the importance of boosting access to oral rehydration therapy across the country (12/21).

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