WHO to Request Cholera Vaccines for Haiti, Expects Further Spread

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo
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GENEVA, Oct 4 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is setting up tents to treat cholera in Haiti and will also request a supply of oral vaccines against the disease that has unexpectedly returned to a country paralysed by a gang blockade, a WHO spokesperson said.

The disease killed some 10,000 people through a 2010 outbreak that has been blamed on a United Nations peacekeeping force that was stationed in Haiti. The United Nations apologised in 2016 for the outbreak, without taking responsibility. The last case was reported three years ago.

The Caribbean country has so far reported at least seven deaths and the WHO warned that some early cases may have gone undetected, with more expected to emerge. read more

“It’s very important now to get assistance on the ground as soon as possible,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva press briefing on Tuesday. He described a “difficult cocktail” of circumstances around the disease’s spread, with cases emerging in gang-controlled areas where access to testing or treatment is severely hampered.

“With the humanitarian situation and sanitary situation what it is, and the gang-controlled areas where there’s hardly any access to control, to test or even to bring in assistance, we should expect unfortunately cases to be higher and to rise.”

Already, some hospitals are beginning to close due to fuel shortages and lack of access for staff, Lindmeier added.

WHO and partners are setting up cholera treatment centres in tents and supplying them with medicines and equipment, he said.

It was not immediately evident how cholera returned to Haiti.

The site of the outbreak, a poor area called Cite Soleil outside the capital, witnessed a bloody turf war in July that left some residents trapped without access to food and water. Clean water is essential to halting the spread of cholera.

Controlling the outbreak will depend on ending the gang blockade, the U.N. Integrated Office of the Deputy Special Representative, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti said in a statement.

“If fuel is not immediately released for humanitarian purposes, the response to this crisis will be limited and the impact of the outbreak will be exacerbated,” it said.

“Access to Cite Soleil, where the first case was reported, has been closed off to the U.N. and international actors for multiple weeks.”

The Varreux fuel terminal, the entrance to which remains blocked by trenches and shipping containers, called on Twitter for a deal to create a humanitarian corridor “to allow for the supply of hospitals, water treatment centres and telecoms”.

Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Rachel More, Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich
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