Cholera, gone, but not forgotten — WHO

Two United Nations health agencies Monday said death from cholera in Haiti is preventable and urged the authorities “to accelerate investments in clean water and adequate sanitation”.

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Cholera can be a debilitating disease. (Photo: National Geographic)

The Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in a joint statement noted that the cholera outbreak that began in Haiti in October 2010 caused an estimated 820,000 cases and killed 9,792 people.

“Now is the time to act to ensure that cholera in Haiti remains a distant memory.”

— WHO

But they said due to the hard work of the Haitian government and the population in partnership with PAHO and other agencies, there have been no confirmed cases of cholera since the end of January 2019.

“As Haiti approaches one year free of cholera, the disease may be gone, but it is certainly not forgotten. Now is the time to act to ensure that cholera in Haiti remains a distant memory.”

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An estimated 820,000 cases of Cholera have been diagnosed in Haiti since 2010. (Photo: The New York Times)

The two agencies said cholera is a disease of inequity that unduly sickens and kills the poorest and most vulnerable people, mostly those without access to clean water and sanitation.

“It causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration that can kill a formerly healthy person within hours. So long as diseases like cholera remain, we will simply not achieve universal health, nor will we ensure the very crux of the sustainable development agenda – leaving no one behind.

“Surveillance is in place to detect and respond to possible flare-ups. And a vaccine is available.”

— WHO

“Death from cholera is preventable with the tools that we have today. Primary health clinics have been established throughout Haiti with trained personnel that are able to manage cases and save people with adequate rehydration and care. Surveillance is in place to detect and respond to possible flare-ups. And a vaccine is available, which PAHO/WHO can mobilize from the global stockpile.”

The PAHO/WHO said that early detection is key, and its Labo-moto project work on the ground to enable field nurses to rapidly transport samples from patients from treatment centres to laboratories on motorcycles.

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A child receiving a cholera vaccine. (Photo: NPR)

The agencies said as a result of this initiative last year, 95 per cent of suspected cases were tested for cholera and “to make sure that cholera truly remains a distant memory we must also accelerate investments in clean water and adequate sanitation.

“We have made tremendous progress to get to where we are today, but the process to document and verify elimination requires at least two more years. We must continue our work with Haiti, and other UN agencies and partners, to ensure that our concerted efforts pay off in the long-term for the health and wellness of all,” the two UN agencies added.

—CMC