PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti — United Nations humanitarian officials are calling for “massive mobilization activities” in Haiti to promote prevention and early treatment in the cholera epidemic which has already killed more than 2,760 people and infected over 130,000 others, nearly 71,000 of whom were hospitalized.
Major gaps and constraints in fighting the epidemic since it broke out in October include access to clean water and latrines in health facilities and cholera treatment centres, access to health care, and coordination, according to the latest update by the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“There is an urgent need for massive mobilization activities to promote prevention and early treatment,” it said of a disease that is spread by contaminated water and food. “In addition, controlling the epidemic will depend on the level of access to safe water and basic sanitation and implementation of hygiene measures.”
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) through its regional arm, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), continues to provide support for hygiene promotion and social mobilization activities with the development, printing and distribution of 97,000 posters and 150,000 laminated pages containing guidance on prevention and treatment in Creole, the local language.
A course on cholera management has also been developed for community and religious leaders and will be delivered by the government, with over 500 health professionals already trained by PAHO/WHO in case management.
Fatality rates have decreased in most departments, or administrative regions, since 1 December to an overall 2.1 per cent nationwide, except in the south-east where it went from 12.9 per cent to 13.8 per cent between 11 and 18 December.
In the South Department, the management of dead bodies remains a huge challenge, particularly in Les Cayes where at least 64 corpses remained several weeks at the hospital because the population was opposed to burying them in a mass grave.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for more funds to fight the epidemic, noting that a $164 million appeal launched in November was only 21 per cent funded.
He also announced the creation of an independent scientific panel to investigate the source of the outbreak amid widespread media reports that Nepalese peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were the likely source, with infected water spreading from their base into a nearby tributary of the Artibonite River.