Haiti reports cholera deaths for first time in three years
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti's government on Sunday announced that at least eight people have died from cholera, raising concerns about a potentially fast-spreading scenario and reviving memories of an epidemic that killed nearly 10,000 people a decade ago.
The cases - the first cholera deaths reported in three years - came in a community called Dekayet in southern Port-au-Prince and in the gang-controlled seaside slum of Cite de Soleil, where thousands of people live in cramped, unsanitary conditions.
“Cholera is something that can spread very, very quickly,” warned Laure Adrien, director general of Haiti's health ministry.
Food or water contaminated with the cholera bacteria can lead to severe diarrhoea and dehydration which can be deadly.
The United Nations said in a statement that it is working with Haiti's government to “mount an emergency response to this potential outbreak,” stressing that health teams need to be guaranteed safe access to areas where cases have been reported.
The deaths come as a lack of fuel and ongoing protests shut down the availability of basic services across Haiti, including medical care and clean water, which are key to helping fight cholera and keep patients alive.
Haiti's most powerful gang continues to control the entrance to a main fuel terminal in the capital of Port-au-Prince, leading to a lack of fuel amid soaring prices that have unleashed widespread protests that have paralysed the country for more than two weeks.
The absence of fuel and increasing number of roadblocks have prevented water trucks from visiting neighbourhoods to provide potable water to those who can afford it. It also has prompted some companies to temporarily shut down operations.
On Sunday, Caribbean Bottling Company said it could no longer produce or distribute potable water because its diesel reserves were “completely depleted,” adding that the lack of such a vital resource would affect “all sectors of society.”
Adrien said health officials were trying to visit communities where cholera has been reported, but that his agency, too, has been affected by a lack of fuel as he called on people blocking the gas terminal and organising protests to “have a conscience.”
“This is a real problem,” he said of how the country has virtually been paralysed. “We're hoping this will not spread.”
Adrien noted that all those who died were unable to reach a hospital in time.
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