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Haiti struggles to stem cholera

30 May 2015, 09:42Anastasia Moloney

Bogota - The number of Haitians infected by cholera has risen more than 300% in the past year as early rains, poor sanitation and a lack of funding means the impoverished Caribbean nation struggles to stem the disease, reports the United Nations.

From January to April this year, 14 226 Haitians were infected with cholera, a 306% increase from the same period last year, with the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince hardest hit.

Contaminated water

"An upsurge in the last quarter of 2014 continues to affect Port-au-Prince's metropolitan area, illustrating the shift of the epidemic from rural to urban areas," said the latest UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) report on Haiti.

"This raises concerns with regards to the upcoming rainy season, when cholera in Haiti traditionally expands."

Cholera, a water-borne disease, has killed nearly 9 000 Haitians and infected 738 000 since the outbreak began in the aftermath of a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Also read: 7 magnitude quake strike offshore Alaska

Infection is caused by drinking and using contaminated water, triggering diarrhoea and vomiting that often brings on severe dehydration, which if not treated quickly can be fatal.

Haiti leads the world in suspected cholera cases. So far this year, at least 121 Haitians have died from cholera, according to OCHA.

Global crises

The rainy season, which tends to cause a spike in water-borne bacterial diseases like cholera, usually runs from April to June, but this year heavy rains began to fall a month early.

A lack of funding amid numerous global crises has meant little progress has been made on improving sanitation in Haiti, a key way of combatting cholera.

Nearly 40% of Haiti's population of 10 million do not have access to clean water, while nearly half of the country's hospitals lack either drinking water or sanitation, according to the Pan American Health Organisation.

- Reuters


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