UN deploys anti-cholera team to hurricane-torn Haiti


The United Nations announced Thursday it has deployed medical staff to Haiti to treat cholera outbreaks reported in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

“We are seriously concerned about an epidemic of cholera, and that’s why the Ministry of Health, with our assistance, is taking all measures possible to avoid that happening,” Jean Luc Poncelet, Haiti representative for the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said in a statement.

More than 1.4 million Haitians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance after the Category 4 storm struck seven of the country’s 10 administrative departments, killing 473 people, according to the Civil Protection Directorate.

Approximately 120,000 houses were destroyed or damaged and the number of people in makeshift shelters exceeds 160,000, the agency said Tuesday.

Since the emergency, nearly 20 people have been killed by cholera and at least 356 have contracted the disease, Health Minister Daphne Benoit Delsoin said.

More than half of the cases have been registered in Grand-Anse, one of the hardest-hit departments, she added.

Cholera has killed more than 9,100 people and affected an estimated of 780,000 in Haiti since an outbreak in 2010.

The appearance of the disease, typically contracted through contaminated food or water, was blamed on the UN’s Nepalese peacekeepers based in Haiti after a devastating earthquake of 2010. The strain of the illness observed in the country is endemic in Nepal, researchers found.

Last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepted responsibility for the cholera outbreak in the Caribbean country and said he would prepare a “material” package of assistance worth $181 million to assist with the emergency. The global body will also provide the same amount to compensate those affected and their families.

Relevant UN agencies have since dispatched shipments of cholera kits containing oral rehydration solutions, catheters and water chlorination treatments to help patients with acute diarrhea and cholera.

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