Amid uncertainty in Haiti, new cholera outbreak puts 1.2 million children and adolescents at risk
PORT-AU-PRINCE/NEW YORK, October 4, 2022 – The resurgence of cholera in violence-plagued Haiti after three years without a single case threatens the well-being and health of 1.2 million children and adolescents living in the Haitian capital of Puerto Princesa, UNICEF warned today.
As the country grapples with clashes between armed groups and violent protests against price hikes, seven deaths have been reported and five positive cases have been confirmed. Another 60 suspected cases are being investigated in the greater Port-au-Prince area. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also recently reported the death of a three-year-old boy. Cholera is a waterborne disease that causes acute diarrhea and can be fatal if not treated within hours.
“With increasing violence and insecurity, many of Haiti’s poorest families have no choice but to drink and use unsafe water,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF representative in Haiti. “Families cannot buy soap to wash their hands, garbage is not collected on the streets, health centers are closed or unable to function. All these ingredients have turned Haiti into a ticking time bomb for cholera. Now he exploded.”
The cholera surge comes as social unrest and violence sweep across the country, limiting or delaying the provision of essential services, including hospitals and water facilities. As a result, 17 of the 22 primary health facilities are at risk of closure due to lack of fuel. 50,000 children, adolescents and newborns cannot receive medical care in the coming weeks. While 7,000 victims of sexual violence may be without treatment at the end of the year. In addition, three-quarters of Haiti’s main hospitals are not providing regular services due to the fuel crisis, insecurity and looting.
The most vulnerable children, adolescents and families are also unable to access humanitarian supplies due to the violence. Supplies sent to the port of Port-au-Prince have not been able to be distributed in the country because the port is controlled by armed groups. Access to areas with confirmed or suspected cholera cases remains difficult due to insecurity, while the fuel crisis further complicates the response to the resurgence of cholera.
According to the latest available data on malnutrition in Ciudad del Sol, where the country’s first case of cholera was registered, one in five children under the age of five suffers from severe or moderately acute malnutrition. Due to the lack of basic services in Ciudad del Sol, there are fears that many children and adolescents may die from this resurgence of cholera.
UNICEF has established an emergency reserve to help the Haitian government respond to the resurgence of cholera:
- 755,000 water purification tablets to serve 15,000 people for 15 days.
- 28,230 bars of soap to serve 14,000 people in one month.
- 20 collapsible tanks of 10 cubic meters, 10 collapsible tanks of 5 cubic meters and 30 cisterns are now available to the National Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation of Haiti (DINEPA).
An order has been placed for 80 45-kilogram drums of chlorine – a total of 3,600 kg – to assist DINEPA in chlorinating water in Port-au-Prince, disinfecting affected homes and supplying health centers in affected areas.
“Cholera could easily spread like wildfire in Haiti if the population continues to have limited or no access to basic health, water and sanitation services due to insecurity,” Mace says. “To reduce the risks of a major outbreak, our most urgent concern is not just to buy and deliver clean water, chlorine and soap, but to find a way to reach the poorest families in gang-controlled areas.”
UNICEF’s humanitarian assistance in Haiti remains critically underfunded. To date, only 20.2% of the funds needed to provide two million people with access to safe drinking water, one of the key interventions to protect children and adolescents from deadly water-borne diseases and prevent malnutrition, have been received.