People in Port-au-Prince are waiting. Waiting for cholera to come. Reports from the ground in Haiti are saying it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when the disease spreads to the capital. NPR spoke with Jacqueline Charles this morning. She’s there reporting on the outbreak for the Miami Herald. And what she said was chilling.
We are basically bracing ourselves for something we know is coming. And, unfortunately, I think in Haiti right now it’s not even a question of how many people will die, as it is a question of how many lives can be saved.
For now, only five people in Port-Au-Prince have been diagnosed with the disease, and they’ve been quarantined. They contracted it in the rural area where it first broke out.
At the moment, about 250 people are dead. Many, many more are sick. Hospitals in the area first hit by the disease are overflowing with people. They are filling up hallways and spilling out into courtyards and parking lots.
Charles describes a fear of water that has descended on the country. Cholera is water born, and people are now afraid to drink it, even if they know it is safe. Charles calls it a vicious cycle, as it’s what you need to live. Cholera causes dehydration and diarrhea that can kill within hours.
The image of a cholera outbreak in the capital is terrifying. More than a million people are still living in ramshackle camps. There is little safe water in Haiti, says Charles, it was an issue before the earthquake, and only worse now.
Up until this moment, Cholera has been an impersonal threat that hit others, even though we shipped off a bunch of electrolyte re-hydrations powders that had been sitting here since the January 12 quake.
Immediately after the January 12 disaster, I can recall heated discussions with Center for Disease Control people, and others who should have been prepared for what is now happening. I was met withy polite tolerance as one without medical training or an appreciation of the bureaucratic hogwash that immobilizes groups that should be quick acting.
It has been 10 months since the quake – enough time to be prepared for what has now happened – CHOLERA!!
No one could prepare for a quake, by CHOLERA is different. You see the equation as a perfect one in which there was only the need for one infection to start the avalanche. The balancing factors would be antibiotics and re-hydration powders, at a very minimum.
And now we are way behind the power-curve again.
People are dying unnecessarily.
Denise – aged 18 months, and Pierre-Andre, aged 3 are gone, victims of bureaucratic indifference.
CHOLERA has struck close to us and new we know, on a personal level, the fear of the unknown killer that permeates our society.
Where will CHOLERA strike next?