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Saturday, November 20, 2010
Haiti's cholera epidemic sparks outrage
By Stephen Lendman
In early November, thousands of Haitians rallied for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return and presidential hopeful Jean-Henry Ceant in the November 28 elections, one rigged by banning 14 political parties, including Fanmi Lavalas, by far the most popular.
Ceant founded Aimer Haiti (Love Haiti), “a movement uniting and integrating human-centered (principles) and committed to the pursuit of the ideals of unity, solidarity and fraternity to build a new Haiti on the basis of shared responsibility, social justice, peace and economic progress for all.”
He's also a notaire (notary), businessman, community leader and philanthropist, the only candidate most Haitians support, whether or not he'll deliver on promises if elected. Aristide did, Preval for a while, then sold out the public that backed him. Given Washington's iron fist and no shyness using it, populist governments everywhere are at risk, especially in deeply impoverished countries like Haiti.
For now, a raging cholera epidemic takes top concern, officially causing over 1,000 deaths and around 15,000 hospitalizations. However, these figures way understate the true crisis, one or more estimates believing the true count is several-fold. On November 14, Operational Biosurveillance said it confirmed statistics of up to 400% undercounting.
“There is no question of under-reporting.” At one-fourth the true crisis, “we now have nearly 60k cases shedding pathogen into the environment. We believe the true statistic to be closer to more than 100k based on the degree of under-reporting. It is extremely difficult to estimate the true scale of this epidemic now. (It's) grossly uncontrolled, uncontained, (and) has exceeded public health capacity to investigate and assess every site reported and every sample received.”
Disturbingly, the entire country is affected, including the densely crowded capital, Port-au-Prince, with up to 1.5 million in makeshift accommodations on city streets and wherever they found space, living in the open under dismal sanitation conditions.
On November 14, New York Times writer Randal Archibold headlined, “Cholera Deaths Up in Haiti, With Worst to Come,” saying:
“Several epidemiologists have said the disease has not peaked and will likely worsen and” spread, UN health officials “estimating about 270,000 may be sickened in the coming years.”
The true potential minimally exceeds a million, eventually causing many thousands of deaths, preventable because cholera is easily treated if done properly on time. However, little Western aid was provided, virtually nothing from Washington despite over $1.1 billion pledged. Also, Haiti's medical infrastructure is woefully inadequate, besides poor sanitation and most Haitians having no access to clean drinking water.
Overall since the January earthquake, Washington obstructed what little aid arrived. Then cholera and Hurricane Tomas flooding, making conditions on the ground worse than ever, indifferent rich nations doing little to help.
Haitians finally reacted, riots erupting in Cap-Haitian on Haiti's north coast. On November 16, Al Jazeera headlined, “Haiti cholera protests turns violent,” saying:
Clashes with MINUSTAH forces killed at least two Haitians. “Protesters, who hold Nepalese UN peacekeepers responsible for the cholera outbreak (from an identified Asian strain foreign to Haiti), threw stones and threatened to set fire to a (Cap Haitian) base,” according to Haitian radio and eyewitness reports.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org