As the cholera epidemic in Haiti rages on, the local population struggles not only to gain access to clean water, but also to learn how to prevent a disease they have never seen before. Until last month, cholera had not hit Haiti in one hundred years.
Take a look at this update on the situation from Doctors Without Borders, which has treated over 15,00 people in Haiti so far. You can read the transcript at the bottom of this post:
In the meantime, violent clashes erupted in the northern part of the country yesterday as angry demonstrators accused United Nations peacekeepers of starting the outbreak. CNN reports aid agencies appealed for calm and said the protests were hampering efforts to reach the sickened.
The U.N. has denied the claim that Nepalese peacekeepers were responsible for starting the outbreak, according to CNN, and that U.N. statements said the protests may be politically motivated to create insecurity ahead of November 28 elections.
Haiti’s Health ministry says the cholera outbreak has killed 1,110 people, and 18,383 people have been hospitalized to date.
The disease has now spread across the border to the Dominican Republic as Dominican officials had feared it would, and the health ministry there has issued a maximum health alert. According to CNN, the first confirmed case is a 32-year-old Haitian construction worker who returned to the Dominican Republic last Friday with symptoms of the disease.
And the Miami Herald reports a Florida woman, who just returned from visiting family in Haiti, has been diagnosed with the disease and is Florida’s first local case of cholera.
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Transcript of Doctors Without Borders video:
“Haiti: Cholera Epidemic Gains Ground”
Text on screen: “Haiti: Cholera epidemic gains ground”
Video: In what appears to be a large canvas tent filled with patients, doctors, and nurses, a doctor examines a baby girl in her mother’s arms, and seems to be giving her CPR. Her mother wails. Then, we see him speaking to the camera.
Dr. Reichling Saint-Sauveur, translation in voiceover: “The little girl was admitted at about three or four o’clock this morning. They asked me to come and see her, they were worried about her condition. She was severely dehydrated. Unfortunately, she arrived too late for us to save her.”
Video: Various shots inside and outside the tent, as doctors and nurses tend patients.
Voiceover: “The young girl died in the cholera treatment center in Tabarre. The center has seventy beds but is overflowing with patients, like all the other emisare [?] facilities.”
Video: Woman holding a toddler who seems very sick and limp, with an IV in his arm. the video then moves to Caroline Seguin speaking to the camera.
Seguin, an emergency coordinator, with translation in voiceover: “The first cholera cases were confirmed on the 19th of October in the Artibonite region in the center of the country. The outbreak quickly spread to the north, and reached Port-au-Prince a week ago.”
Video: Sick passengers of all ages, some already attached to IVs, clambering or carried and helped out of the backs and beds of trucks. They make their way into the tents.
Voiceover: “During the first days of the epidemic, the teams were receiving three new patients a day in Port-au-Prince. They’re now seeing 300 a day.”
Seguin: “We’re worried that we won’t have the capacity to treat all the patients in the coming days. They’re arriving in large numbers. Our hospital is completely full. We’re even having to refuse referrals because we know we’re unable to treat them.”
Video: Showing hygiene in the medical camp — washing hands, shoes, and so on — and more video of patients, many of them children, being examined and treated.
Voiceover: “MSF has already treated 15,000 patients for cholera, and Haitian health officials are reporting 917 deaths.”
Video: Geguin speaking to the camera.
Geguin: “Prevention messages explain that people must wash their hands and drink clean, chlorinated water. But so far, they haven’t had access to safe water, which explains why the epidemic is spreading so quickly.”
Video: Patients being treated, clean water being dispensed, masked workers disposing of waste.
Voiceover: “Although deadly if not treated in time, cholera is easy to treat. In the treatment centers, hygiene measures are strict. Patients suffering from watery diarrhea and vomiting are hospitalized generally for two days.”
Video: Man lying on a pallet on the ground in a tent and health workers move around him, injecting something into his hand and tending to him. One pinches the skin of his stomach to show how it stays in a pinched peek instead of rebounding.
Dr. Saint-Saveur (I believe) in voiceover: “This man has just arrived. He’s lethargic, his extremities are very cold, and we can’t feel his pulse. The skin pinch test is positive, a sign of serious dehydration.”
Voiceover: “Dr. Saveur and his colleagues are dealing with a unique situation. Cholera has not struck Haiti for more than a hundred years. Unfamiliar with the disease, the epidemic has sparked panic amongst the population.”
Video: Gerson Getan, an Medecins Sans Frontieres employee, speaks to the camera.
Getan, translation in voiceover: “People don’t want us to set up cholera treatment centers near where they live. People reacted by saying, ‘No, we’re going to burn all the centers. We don’t want people infected with cholera coming here.’ People are genuinely frightened.”
Video: Patients being treated.
Voiceover: “Patient stigmatization and pressure from the community are further complicating the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres.”
Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army