Cholera returns to Haiti as nation lurches from one crisis to the next
Looting, violence and cholera strike Haiti again and again in the wake of a disastrous year in which tens of thousands of Haitians had their homes destroyed and many fled amid the nation’s worst humanitarian crisis in decades.
The United States and more than two dozen countries pledged $8 billion in aid Sunday to help Haiti recover from a cholera epidemic, which struck the impoverished Caribbean nation last year. The United Nations agency known as the World Health Organization said more than 3,300 Haitians might have died of the deadly bug, which can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
Haiti is in the midst of another humanitarian crisis this week after a deadly earthquake flattened much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 220,000 people. And just a day earlier, police said they had killed 27 people in a massacre of more than 150 people in the slum of Petionville, where many of the victims were displaced people.
“Haiti is already suffering. The cholera epidemic is going to cause even further problems,” said Richard Segal, director of the Center for International Studies at New York University.
Cholera is a major killer in Haiti and has been on the rise since last year, killing thousands of Haitian and international aid workers. More than 100,000 Haitians have died from cholera in the past 20 years, most of them in the past two years.
A cholera epidemic erupted in Haiti last year, when an estimated 3.4 million Haitians were at risk of contracting the disease. The outbreak was caused by a bug called cholera vibrio, which had traveled across the Atlantic Ocean from Haiti to Colombia and from there to Peru and Brazil, according to the World Health Organization.
At first, the disease seemed to spread quickly, with doctors and NGOs warning that it could spread as rapidly as the earthquake. The worst cholera epidemic in Haiti’s history lasted almost three months before it was brought under control, killing more than 13,000 people.
But more than a year and a half after the outbreak, that is still the most severe cholera epidemic in world history, said Daniel