UN: number of cholera deaths in Haiti shows signs of falling or stabilizing

24 January 2011

The number of people dying from cholera in Haiti has been on a downward trend or has stabilized in all ten of the country’s departments affected by the outbreak, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today, adding that the number of hospitalized people has also been decreasing.

However, it remains unclear whether the epidemic has reached its peak, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update. It noted that a peak can only be determined if the majority of affected areas report a decreasing number of new cases over a period of three to four weeks.

The cholera outbreak was first reported in October last year. It led to the setting up of cholera treatment centres and smaller treatments units throughout affected areas, and a call from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the international community to provide immediate massive aid to fight the epidemic.

As of 16 January, Haiti’s public health ministry reports 194,095 cumulative cases of cholera and 3,889 deaths, with an overall fatality rate of two per cent nationwide. In November, the UN World Health Organization reported the fatality rate as standing at 2.3 per cent.

In its update, OCHA said the number of daily hospitalizations nationwide is down, from 837 on 11 December, to 515 on 16 December; and partners, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, are planning to close treatment locations and reduce their presence in some areas due to the decrease in the number of cholera cases being admitted.

OCHA said much effort is now focused on moving medical services to areas where they are most needed, mainly in remote rural areas. A total of 129 physicians and 326 nurses are still needed nationwide to support cholera response activities – a significant decrease from the 2,000 nurses and 350 physicians initially required.

Humanitarian agencies are also focussing on raising hygiene awareness and spreading cholera prevention messages in camps and surrounding host communities, as well as distributing hygiene kits. Cholera prevention activities and the training of teachers on nutrition and children’s emergency hygiene promotion are also being implemented in schools.

OCHA said that lack of funding, poor access to remote areas and lack of community mobilizers have been identified as the most pressing needs in relation to the cholera outbreak.

In November, the United Nations launched an appeal in November for $164 million from the international community to provide treatment and put preventive measures in place, supplying water-purification materials, carrying out large-scale public information campaigns, and helping to build treatment centres – so far, the appeal has received 34 per cent of its funding.

 

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