Pushing Back Against Cholera and Gridlock in Haiti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The following report comes from our heroic and enduring Partners in Casall, Haiti where (among many other things) they operate a cholera clinic and provide relief from the ongoing Cholera epidemic that has persisted in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. 

In December, there were 175 patients treated in the cholera treatment.  So far, we’ve seen 138 people in January.  These months are part of our dry season with very little rainfall. Usually, the cases drop considerably in these months . . . except this year.  We are not sure why there is such a steady high number of cases, but all organizations currently involved continue to do all they can to stop the disease from spreading.

The Haitian health department, Christian Aid Ministries and the French Red Cross are still giving us supplies that they have on hand whenever possible.  The French Red Cross does home visits to disinfect and educate.  They also visit the center with hygiene kits for those admitted.  Our constant need is an IV fluid called Ringer’s Lactate.  This month, we had one man use 110 liters during his stay.  Another used 87 liters.  We try to have the patients drink an oral rehydration drink instead of using the IV fluid whenever possible, but this is impossible with some children, those that are unconscious, and others.  Thankfully, these organizations supply us with 50-100 cases at each distribution.  We are very grateful for this collaboration for the health and well-being of those in the area.  We wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open without this support and teamwork.

 There have been 4 deaths in the area from cholera in the last two months.  This illness is still causing heartache, pain, and suffering throughout the country.  Many organizations have turned their eye from cholera to other needs in the world, but this disease is still a deadly threat in Haiti.

 Our staff is doing well and working hard.  Two of the ladies are on maternity leave.  We are happy for healthy moms and babies and for the time that they have off to recover and bond.  Everyone else is stepping up to ensure the patients and caregivers receive good care and helpful information.

 Thank you to each of you that pray for these patients, caregivers, and staff.  Thank you to each of you that send medicines, clothes, and supplies.  Thank you to each of you that donate funds for payroll, transportation, and food.  Together we are making a difference and helping recovery of cholera patients in Jesus’ Name.  Thank you for being a light of hope in the midst of this dark epidemic.

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Below are some recent comments published Jan 12th 2015 at the Council on Foreign Relations website from the multiple, award winning Journalist & Author of The Big Truck That Went ~ By How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster Jonathan M. Katz. They reflect the generally dismal progress made politically and governmentally while the humanitarian struggle against the Cholera epidemic forges on.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0­ magnitude earthquake struck near Haiti’s capital, Port­ au ­Prince, killing as many as 316,000 people and destroying much of the city. Relief and reconstruction in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, continues to move slowly and has been marked by major setbacks, including a cholera outbreak some experts have linked to UN peacekeepers.

The earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, spurring the development of sprawling tent camps, some of which remain open. How are conditions today? Most of the rubble has been cleared—mostly by Haitians, who used it to rebuild their homes. General services and infrastructure weren’t there to recover in the first place. The situation before the earthquake was untenable, and it still is untenable. The camps became the most visible symbol of the destruction caused by the earthquake, so a lot of pressure was put on the various responders to reduce the number of people living in the camps. But within a month of the earthquake the camps were simply becoming new parts of the housing stock of Port­ au­ Prince.

If you were to go into one of the major camps and then to Cite Soleil, a shantytown that had been there for about thirty years, you couldn’t really tell them apart. They look the same, they’re made of the same materials, and a lot of the same families had family members living in both. You’d have the same kinds of boutiques, the same guys selling lottery tickets. That’s not to say people didn’t want to move back somewhere else. In many cases people had lived in nicer concrete houses before the earthquake and wanted to get out of the camps. The vast majority of people who were registered as living in earthquake camps have now left. Some have gotten rental subsidies, some have been violently pushed out, and some were able to get back to work and could rent another place.

Critics have referred to Haiti as a republic of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations]. After the earthquake, 93 percent of aid went to NGOs, UN agencies, donor government entities tasked with responding to the crisis, and Red Cross organizations. One percent went to the Haitian government, and 6 percent can’t be traced. The Haitian government was so weak when the earthquake struck that it wasn’t in a position to receive large amounts of money and do anything practical with it. But work should have started within a few months of the disaster to make sure that all the interventions going into Haiti were helping to build municipal and national structures so that next time a disaster struck a more robust state response would be a possibility. But that didn’t happen.

The Haitian government has very limited reach, and basic services — like the construction of wells and clinics, for example — are mostly provided by NGOs. There’s no democracy in that scenario. If you live in the quake zone and you’re just an ordinary Haitian citizen who depends on an NGO for services, and the NGO does a bad job, or even an irrelevant job, there’s usually no mechanism to communicate it. In the United States — in theory, and usually in practice — if we’re angry enough [about public services] we can vote for the other guy.

Cholera in Haiti is a disaster that, while not commensurate with the death toll of the earthquake, has had in many ways at least a comparable impact. It has killed about nine thousand people and infected about seven hundred thousand. It ruined people’s livelihoods. It changed people’s relationships with one another. People were afraid to shake hands, to eat at each other’s’ houses. Fishermen didn’t want to go out fishing. People who were raising rice crops didn’t want to go out into the rice paddies. It was really destructive beyond the death toll. And the death toll was massively high. If we weren’t putting this in conversation with an earthquake that killed an estimated 316,000 people, a disaster that killed about nine thousand people in a country of ten million would be considered sort of one of the great disasters of its century.

If an earthquake were to strike today, would Haiti be any better prepared? If another earthquake were to happen today on the exact same fault, the result would be more or less the same. There’s no robust response waiting in the wings. Many people have moved back to the same homes they were living in before the earthquake, homes that have been patched up slightly or maybe not at all, or they’ve moved to new buildings that have been since the earthquake but are just as vulnerable as the ones built before it. There has always been a building code in Haiti, but there has never been an enforcement mechanism to make people follow it. The Haitian government still doesn’t have the enforcement mechanism to ensure that masons are doing what they are supposed to be doing. That goes back to core structural problems of governance and economy.

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