(AP) — Cholera cases are overwhelming Haiti as experts warn the situation could worsen now that the country is bustling once again after a paralysing fuel blockade that lasted two months.
Dr Jeanty Fils, a spokesman for Haiti’s Ministry of Health, told The Associated Press that people are back on the streets and likely spreading cholera as the government struggles to find life-saving equipment including IV supplies amid an ongoing discussion on whether to request cholera vaccines.
“We need more resources,” he said. “Cholera cases continue to climb in Haiti.”
At least 175 people have died and more than 7,600 have been hospitalised, the Pan American Health Organization said Tuesday, although officials believe the numbers are much higher as a result of under-reporting.
Even so, the number of suspected cases had jumped by 33 per cent in just a week.
The worsening situation prompted the United Nations to announce Tuesday that it, along with Haiti’s government and other partners, was seeking $146 million to help fight cholera. At least half a million people in Haiti are at risk of contracting the disease, according to PAHO and the World Health Organization.
“The surge in cases in recent weeks and the rapid spread of cholera in the country is worrying,” said Ulrika Richardson, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator.
Fils noted that cholera cases were likely contained during the fuel blockade since gas stations were closed and many in the country of more than 11 million people remained at home.
“Now people are going to move around more,” he said. “It could start spreading.”
Stephanie Mayronne, medical operations manager for Doctors Without Borders, agreed.
She said if people sickened with cholera start traveling to areas with poor sanitation and a lack of drinking water, the number of cases will likely rise.
“It’s a match that can light a fire,” she said.
The number of patients seeking help at Doctors Without Borders hospitals in the capital of Port-au-Prince have spiked in recent weeks, with more than 6,500 admitted so far. Beds filled up so quickly that the aid group was forced to open a fifth center two weeks ago, said Alexandre Marcou, Haiti’s field communication manager.
Inside that new center, mothers hovered over their children on a recent morning. One rearranged the tangle of intravenous cables surrounding her baby while another pumped the little cheeks of her young daughter to force her mouth open and give her an oral supplement. Nearby, adult patients sat in silence in plastic chairs with large white buckets between their legs, holding their head to one side with their arm. Some ate rice and red beans out of small containers that nurses later collected.
Marcou noted that people can survive cholera if treated on time, but the recent lack of fuel and ongoing violence between gangs that has worsened since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has prevented Haitians from reaching hospitals and medical clinics.
“There’s a huge security crisis. And we are tremendously lacking resources,” said Ralph Ternier, chief medical officer in Haiti for the nonprofit Partners in Health. “The epidemic is spreading so quickly that vaccines are really the tool that we need.”