In an interview following his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters that cholera is “really under control.” Well, that certainly depends on your definition of under control. Since tropical storm Isaac swept across Haiti last month, some 83 Haitians have reportedly died from cholera and this is almost certainly an understatement, as the surveillance system has become increasingly unreliable. Over the same time, more than 8,200 Haitians have been sickened. Since April of this year, when the rainy season began, 514 have died and over 63,000 have been sickened by cholera.
As for the government’s response, according to the United Nations, “national capacity to respond to potential outbreaks, especially during the rainy season, remains very weak.” From May to June this year, just as the rainy season was beginning, three cholera treatment centers and 13 cholera treatment units were closed down, leaving just 17 and 61 left open, respectively. This is down from 38 and 205 last August. Additionally, as CCO Haiti pointed out last month, “many public health workers in the Cholera Treatment Center (CTCs) have not received salaries for several months and there are reports of strikes by front line medical staff to redress this situation. This is a serious issue negatively affecting the effectiveness of the cholera response and it needs to be urgently addressed.”
Of course, this is not entirely the government’s fault. Most of the cholera response bypassed the government entirely and now, as NGOs pull out of the field, the government has been left to pick up the slack without adequate resources. Nevertheless, to the hundreds of Haitians falling ill every day with cholera, Prime Minister Lamothe’s assertion must ring especially hollow.
Update 9/27: The post has been updated to reflect newly posted data on cholera deaths and cases.