Cholera, cli­mate change fuel Haiti’s hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis: United Na­tions


Cli­mate change, cholera and the re­turn of thou­sands of em­i­grants from the neigh­bor­ing Do­mini­can Repub­li­can are fu­el­ing a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Haiti, the United Na­tions (UN) warned Tues­day.

The im­pov­er­ished Caribbean na­tion is fac­ing a del­uge of prob­lems, push­ing an al­ready vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion closer to the edge, said Enzo di Taranto, who heads Haiti’s U.N. Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (OCHA).

Among these pres­sures is a new cholera out­break. Cases are up 300 per­cent in the first months of 2015 com­pared to the same pe­riod last year, di Taranto said in an in­ter­view with AFP.

Haiti — the poor­est coun­try in the Amer­i­cas — is al­ready suf­fer­ing from chronic in­sta­bil­ity and strug­gling to re­cover from a dev­as­tat­ing 2010 earth­quake that killed more than 250,000 peo­ple and crip­pled the na­tion’s in­fra­struc­ture.

A cholera out­break af­ter the quake was blamed on U.N. peace­keep­ers’ poor hy­giene.

Ac­cord­ing to U.N. data, nearly 20,000 peo­ple have been af­fected and 170 killed by the dis­ease since the be­gin­ning of the year.

More than 8,800 Haitians have died of cholera since it ap­peared in Oc­to­ber 2010 and, even to­day, cases recorded in Haiti sur­pass the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple with the dis­ease else­where in the world.

Out of an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 10 mil­lion, around 3 mil­lion Haitians still are drink­ing dirty wa­ter, OCHA said.

Be­yond the in­crease in cholera, the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try is wors­en­ing be­cause of a “con­ver­gence of sev­eral fac­tors,” di Taranto said.

“The de­val­u­a­tion of the gourde (Haitian cur­rency), which means an in­crease in the price of base­line prod­ucts like medicine, food and wa­ter; the drought which has hit many re­gions in the coun­try; and also the repa­tri­a­tion of Haitians from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic,” are all con­tribut­ing, he said.

In June, the neigh­bor­ing Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic in­tro­duced a tough new immigration pol­icy, prompt­ing 60,000 Haitians to leave the coun­try.

Many ended up back in Haiti, strain­ing an al­ready vul­ner­a­ble sys­tem.

The un­con­trolled flow is ex­ert­ing a “de­mo­graphic pres­sure on the al­ready very weak health sys­tem in Haiti and on the sup­ply of food and wa­ter,” di Taranto said.

He said the prob­lems are espe- cially bad in the south­east­ern com­mu­nity of Anse-a-Pitres.

Many fam­i­lies who re­turned from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic are liv­ing hand-to-mouth in shanties.

The ef­fects of cli­mate change are also en­croach­ing. The sum­mer drought pre­vi­ously con­fined to coun­try’s north has crept into the south.

“In the Cayes re­gion and the Ma­caya nat­u­ral park, wa­ter sources are dry,” di Taranto said. “It’s a prob­lem that’s spread­ing.”

Haiti, which has lost 98 per­cent of its for­est cover, has seen wors­en­ing agri­cul­tural con­di­tions and top­soil ero­sion.

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