The number of reported cases of cholera in Haiti is now approaching 50,000, but health experts have cautioned that the figure could be higher because data on the epidemic has not been received from some rural communities, a United Nations relief official said today.
Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, said that epidemiologists in the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) – the regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) – estimate that the number of cases could be as high as 70,000.
The death toll, as of yesterday, stood at 1,200, but the experts have said that the disease might have claimed as many as 2,000 people, with some fatalities in remote areas going unreported.
Speaking via a video link from the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mr. Fisher told a news conference in New York that PAHO epidemiologists have also revised their projections of the spread of the disease and now anticipate that cases could rise to 200,000 over the next three months. The experts had earlier estimated that the number of cases could rise to that figure in six months.
“This epidemic is moving faster,” Mr. Fisher said.
Meanwhile, general elections will proceed on Sunday as planned, despite the cholera outbreak and the recent streets protests in the country, Edmond Mulet, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), told the same press briefing.
“In spite of all that, the electoral process continues unabated – the Government and the vast majority of the candidates are determined that these elections be held as planned and as the Constitution states on 28 November,” Mr. Mulet said.
Mr. Fisher said that although the Government of Haiti and its humanitarian partners are carrying out significant anti-cholera activities with awareness campaigns, the setting up of treatment centres and making clean water and sanitation facilities available, the effort needed to be strengthened.
“Although there has been a significant mobilisation of resources, both national and international … we need to significantly ratchet up the response,” said Mr. Fisher, who is also the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti.
He called for more doctors and nurses, especially from neighbouring countries, to be deployed to Haiti to help combat cholera, which he said is projected to remain a problem in the Caribbean country for at least one year.
On the elections, Mr. Mulet said that an estimated 4.5 million voters will cast their ballots on Sunday to elect the president and senators and members of parliaments in constituencies where elections are due.
There are 19 presidential candidates and 96 senatorial contestants running for 11 seats, while 816 candidates are competing for 99 seats in parliament. Sixty-six political parties are taking part in the elections.
Some 14 million ballots have already been printed and distributed, and the training of poll officials is due to conclude in the next two days, Mr. Mulet said. All voting materials have been transported to MINUSTAH’s regional offices, he added.
The MINUSTAH police unit has assisted the Haitian National Police assess security risks in all voting areas, he said, and both forces have developed a comprehensive security plan.
Voters will cast their ballots in more than 11,000 polling stations located in some 1,500 voting centres.
Preliminary results will be announced on 7 December, with the next two days set aside for candidates to launch complaints, which will be investigated and candidates given time to appeal between 11 and 19 December. The declaration of the final results will be made on 20 December, Mr. Mulet said.