United Nations (UN) relief officials have warned that the scale of Haiti’s cholera epidemic is likely to “increase significantly” as the country deals with the effects of January’s devastating earthquake plus flooding caused by hurricane Tomas in October.
Over 800 Haitians have died and a further 12,000 have been hospitalised by the disease, which is spread by contaminated food and water.
The UN expects up to 200,000 more cases be reported over the next six to 12 months and aid agencies warned the actual number of cases will be higher still.
“The reported cases are only those that are showing symptoms,” said RedR trustee Paul Jawor, who is coordinating a cholera response team for French aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières. “It’s likely that this only represents about 10% of the total number of people carrying the cholera, but without any symptoms.”
The rapid spread of the disease has prompted civil unrest in Haiti’s second-largest city, Cap-Haitien. Protestors have blamed UN soldiers for the outbreak and barricaded the city.
Cholera spreads easily amongst poor communities where people live close together. More than 1M people are still living in temporary camps in Port-au-Prince
Aid agencies are now focusing their efforts on containing the outbreak.
Care International is distributing high-energy biscuits, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, and hygiene kits to more than 16,000 people in the hardest-hit areas.