Cholera spreads in Haiti

Nov. 20, 2010 at 1:26 PM
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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Cholera has killed more than 1,200 Haitians in the past few weeks and a handful of refugees say they're lucky to have jobs cleaning sewage from canals.

Garbage, filth, dead animals and sewage clog canals around Haiti and have turned them into breeding grounds for more disease, The New York Times reported.

Children play and defecate in the canals, and the few lucky enough to find work trying to clean them out by hand say they're not worried about catching the disease that has hospitalized another 17,000 people with cholera-like symptoms, the newspaper said.

Duquesne Fils-Aime, 41, considers himself lucky to have a job cleaning muck from the canals, and he hopes his sanitation efforts will help others.

"We do the bad," said Fils-Aime, 41. "Maybe people won't get sick."

Fils-Aime makes $112 a month cleaning out the canals by hand, and for some doing the dirty work, it is the first steady work they've ever had, the Times said.

Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in January that killed more than 200,000 people, and when Hurricane Tomas swept by the island on Nov. 5, backed-up water spread over refugee camps to create an ideal breeding ground for cholera.

Some Haitians have taken part in violent protests against international peacekeepers, blaming them for spreading the disease.

The BBC said some international aid groups think the response to the cholera outbreak is "inadequate."

The humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said despite the huge aid agency presence in Haiti, urgent needs were not being met. It called for quick action to build latrines, provide safe water and for the removal of bodies, and it promoted an educational effort to reassure frightened people the disease is treatable.

MSF's chief in Haiti, Stefano Zannini, said the charity had treated more than 16,500 people but that there had been "no real and efficient response from other organizations."

"This is alarming in the sense that we haven't reached the peak yet, that might take some time, and so the number of patients might still go up while we still don't see actions on behalf of other people," Zannini said.

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