PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitian volunteers have been banned from departing for African countries hit by the Ebola virus, the government said on Friday, citing other diseases that have devastated the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
A statement signed by the Ministers of Health, Interior and Defense was released after news appeared on social networks that the United Nations was recruiting volunteers to respond to the Ebola outbreak.
In the document dated Oct. 2, the ministers forbade any agency to organize recruitment of Haitian volunteers, including the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).
The ministers called for “the common sense of every citizen to avoid other more dramatic situations than what we have experienced in the recent past.”
A cholera epidemic hit Haiti four years ago, and this year there was an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya, with tens of thousands of suspected cases.
Since October, 2010, Haiti’s cholera epidemic has killed 8,500 people and infected more than 700,000. It may have been brought to Haiti by Nepalese peace keepers stationed near a major river.
Cholera, which had not been documented in Haiti in almost 100 years prior to the outbreak, is an infection that causes severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death, and is caused by poor sanitation.
Minister of Defense Lener Renauld described the Oct. 2 statement as a “warning,” adding that “it’s a question of public health and security to avoid any (Ebola) epidemic crisis happening in Haiti.”
Last month, the Minister of Health recommended that all international agencies “suspend any rotation of members coming from countries where Ebola cases have been found,” including Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.
The announcement was made “to restore the confidence of our citizens,” said Health Minister Florence Duperval Guillaume. “It may be much stronger than necessary but think of those citizens who have been so traumatized, after the earthquake, after cholera, and after chikungunya. We can not afford to take an additional trauma.”
(Editing by David Adams and David Gregorio)