Haiti’s Deepening Cholera Crisis – by Stephen Lendman
This is the latest update since Haiti’s cholera outbreak, previous articles accessed through the following links, including the most recent on Sunday’s sham election, an exercise in imperial control:
On November 24, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres – MSF) reported it continues increasing its efforts in response to Haiti’s deepening crisis.
From October 22 to November 21, MSF teams treated 29,000 people in cholera treatment centers (CTCs), established in Port-au-Prince, Artibonite region (where the first outbreak occurred), North, and Northwest with a 2% or less case fatality rate.
A remarkable record showing that cholera is easily treated when done effectively in time. Otherwise, it’s fatal, a major problem for growing numbers unable to access care, including because of heavy rain in some areas turning roads to mud.
On November 24, Al Jazeera headlined “UN revises Haiti cholera estimates,” saying:
Officials say it’s “spreading faster than originally estimated and could infect hundreds of thousands.” A new World Health Organization (WHO) assessment estimates 200,000 cases in three months, 400,000 in a year. All 10 provinces are affected.
The UN’s Haiti humanitarian coordinator, Nigel Fisher, expects “literally hundreds of thousands of cases. The medical specialists all say that this cholera epidemic will continue through months and maybe a year at least….”
On November 25, Haiti Libre reported 27,933 confirmed cases, 1,523 official deaths, and too little capacity to handle growing needs, saying:
“The situation in Haiti is urgent and will get worse and worse in the coming weeks.” In total, 36 CTCs operate with a 2,830 bed capacity, far below what’s needed. The areas (departments) most affected are Artibonite, North, Northwest, West (including Port-au-Prince), and Northeast. Daily, dozens more cases are reported.
Some human rights groups want Sunday’s election postponed. Let Haiti Live’s executive director, Melinda Miles, said:
“Cholera is a game changer in the most fundamental sense. What we can say, definitely, is that….no elections held in the midst of the current exploding cholera crisis can be considered credible.”
Most pertinent is banning 15 political parties, including by far the most popular, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas that would sweep to victory overwhelmingly if participated. It’s why it’s excluded, to assure imperial favorites are selected. Democracy is off the ballot in Haiti.
On November 23, Canada’s CBC headlined, “Cholera help slowed by indecision: UN,” saying:
UN bureaucracy is “slowing down aid,” making it likely that deaths “could rise above 10,000 if help doesn’t quicken.” Most at fault, rich nations failing to help, notably the Obama administration spurning its responsibility to earthquake and cholera victims, obstructing aid and providing none of its own, leaving Haitians on their own.
On November 24, Haiti: Operational Biosurveillance (OB) provided its latest update, conservatively estimating “nearly 95,000 cases,” the majority subclinical. Again, in many areas, they confirm an undercount of around 400%, saying:
“In many areas of Haiti, we are documenting outbreaks that are not being accounted for in the official statistics. We therefore estimate the upper bound of estimated total (subclinical and clinically apparent) case counts to be nearly 375,000, (and a) true community load (close) to 800,000 if subclinical infections are counted.”
OB sharply criticized America’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC), calling its hubris well-known, a factor contributing to its inappropriate strategy for providing an infectious disease crisis warning. Moreover, CDC acted unprofessionally, spurning available peer-reviewed literature and operational experience. It played an important role in advising USAID and other US government organizations to withhold funding. It’s how America treats poor people everywhere, including at home.
OB also held USAID and the State Department culpable for downplaying the gravity of the crisis, despite multiple professional briefings. Thomas Adams, Haiti Special Coordinator commented on the epidemic, saying “turn off the alarms.” In other words, Washington has no intention to help.
The UN’s Cluster System also failed, and the NGO community largely spurned its responsibility, OB citing:
“countless examples of large NGOs either openly refusing to share information used to detect, verify, and execute emergency responses for villages experiencing ‘first contact’ mortality, or deliberately remaining silent as unfunded ‘grassroots’ organizations scramble to send volunteers into remote areas to help….The rule of thumb is the more funding and the larger the organization, the less likely (it is) to share information about fatalities and emergency need for response.” Or deliver vitally needed services, their interests largely bottom-line driven, making them non-profit in name only.
In addition, OB criticized Haiti’s government for “dereliction of duty,” a November 17 AFP report providing a recent example, headlined, “Haiti’s Preval urges calm as cholera toll soars.”
His government failed to help earthquake and cholera victims. Preval stayed out of sight, largely invisible while Haitians suffer. Instead, on November 17, his recorded message said:
“Disorder and instability have never brought solutions to a country going through hard times,” never mind spurning his responsibility to help. Noting protest outbreaks in Cap Haitien, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere around the country, he said, “Gunshots (fired by UN paramilitaries killing two or more Haitians), throwing bottles, and barricades of burning tires will not help us eradicate cholera bacteria. On the contrary, it will prevent the sick from receiving care and to deliver medicine where it is needed.”
A shocking display of indifference and hypocrisy, reason enough why most Haitians despise him, his party, and government.
A Final Comment
Despite calls to postpone elections and address urgent cholera and earthquake priorities, Sunday’s sham process will proceed. US ambassador Kenneth Merten affirmed it at a November 23 videoconference, saying:
America supports “free, fair, and transparent elections on November 28….We urge Haitians to go out and vote and to exercise their right to do so.”
One unidentified reporter challenged him, saying:
“A number of articles have come out recently, arguing that this election is not free and fair, cannot be….given the exclusion of a number of political parties, (especially) Fanmi Lavalas….What is your comment on that?”
Merten: “Yeah, I understand there have been criticisms of this. However….the sheer number of participants from across the political spectrum (offers) a pretty good representation of the Haitian body politic. Regarding Lavalas….there are at least five (presidential candidates) who are former Lavalas members….So I think their representation….is pretty significant.”
False, another example of America’s big lie everywhere its imperial boot kicks hard, in this case violating Haiti’s 1987 Constitution, guaranteeing free, fair and open elections.
Haiti, however, is a de facto US colony, militarized by proxy Blue Helmets, a repressive occupying force backed by Pentagon might when needed. US marines and other contingents are never far away, never shy about intervening, never reticent about smashing people, communities or countries, unconcerned about lawfulness, democratic values and social justice.
Haitians know it and their northern neighbor, stomping on them mercilessly for over 200 years, the Obama administration no different than its predecessors. It exploited Haiti’s crisis, abandoning millions to suffer and perish from hunger, exposure, depravation, and disease, a testimony to American depravity.
The best from Merten was that Haiti had “a difficult year, (but) it is important that the political process move forward.” Politics before people, capital before essential needs, America’s imperial arrogance, Haitians paying the price.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.