A boy diagnosed with cholera at a cholera center in Anse D’Hainault, Haiti, in 2016 Associated Press/Photo by Dieu Nalio Chery(file)
When Haitian officials confirmed a cholera outbreak on Sunday, David Vanderpool—a doctor who runs a surgical hospital north of Port-au-Prince—said it came as no surprise. Ongoing protests and gang violence have worsened the already limited access to basic amenities like clean water and medical care in the restive country. On Sept. 29, a large partner hospital informed Vanderpool that it would start operating on a shortened schedule since its staff couldn’t get to work safely.
“We’re seeing about a 300 percent increase in patient load because of the closing of hospitals,” Vanderpool said.
The Haitian government said at least eight people have died in the first recorded cholera deaths in three years. Aid groups are now rushing to work with Haitian authorities to prevent a more deadly scenario, given the country’s security situation.
The first confirmed cholera cases came from Dekayet, a community in southern Port-au-Prince, and the gang-controlled seaside slum of Cité Soleil. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) confirmed a 3-year-old was among the dead. The aid group has opened cholera treatment centers in at least four communities. The waterborne infection is transmitted primarily through contaminated food or water and can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Haiti was already battling instability that heightened last year after the president’s assassination and an ongoing economic crisis. The unrest spiked again last month after Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced the government would withdraw fuel subsidies. Protesters reacted by crowding the streets. Then Haitian gangs dug trenches and blocked access to the largest fuel terminal, demanding a drop in fuel prices and the cost of basic goods.
The Caribbean Bottling Company on Sunday said its “completely depleted” diesel reserves mean it doesn’t have the fuel to produce or distribute potable water.
Bruno Maes, a United Nations representative in Haiti, said the violence and insecurity have left many poorer families with no option but to use unsafe water. “Families are unable to buy soap to wash their hands, garbage is not collected in the streets, hospitals are closed or unable to operate,” he said. “All these ingredients have turned Haiti into a time bomb for cholera.”
About 200 gangs are active throughout Haiti, with at least 95 of them operating in Port-au-Prince. Gangs have killed more than 900 people and abducted 680 others in Port-au-Prince alone in the first half of this year.
Vanderpool said security and transport issues are also preventing pregnant women and other patients from accessing healthcare. Last week, the Mawozo 400 gang attacked the police station in its community.
“We’re seeing a 40 percent increase in malnutrition in our area,” Vanderpool said. “We’re seeing many women not able to get to the hospital who are losing their babies.”
Vanderpool’s LiveBeyond ministry dug 97 deep water wells that helped the community to weather the last major cholera outbreak in 2010 when about 10,000 people died. More aid groups are now rallying support for other communities. The UN has called for “guaranteed safe access” to communities with confirmed or reported cases of the disease.
“To reduce the risks of a major outbreak, our most urgent concern is not only to buy and deliver safe water, chlorine, and soap but to find ways to reach the poorest families in the areas controlled by the gangs,” Maes said.
NIGERIA: An American missionary teacher who was kidnapped last week in Nigeria’s unruly central Plateau state has been released, according to reports. A source confirmed to me the abductors seized her from her home late last Friday under “orders to kidnap a white woman.” She was released a day later. Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian human rights lawyer, confirmed her release after a ransom payment. “They said they were offered a bounty of $40,000 for anyone who could bring a white person,” he said of the abductors.
Violence and kidnapping for ransom have continued across central and northern Nigeria. Authorities have blamed armed criminal groups for such kidnappings, but researchers have pointed to increased links between the gangs and insurgent groups. Nigerian authorities on Wednesday confirmed the last 23 captives from a Kaduna train attack in March have been released. Religious freedom groups have continued to urge the U.S. State Department to declare Nigeria as a country of particular concern.
UGANDA: An ongoing Ebola outbreak has killed at least nine people and infected more than 35 others. The spread is caused by the Sudan strain of the virus, which has no approved vaccine or drug treatment. As some malaria symptoms are similar to those of the Sudan strain, community-based clinics face additional challenges in making the right diagnosis to contain the highly contagious disease that circulates through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or contaminated objects. Only one government-run facility is equipped to test for Ebola—whose symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding—and it could take up to 48 hours for test results to be available.
CUBA: After Hurricane Ian caused a nationwide power outage on Sept. 27, Cubans took to the streets, frustrated by the blackout that lasted for days. The country of 11 million people also saw disruptions in internet and cellphone services last Thursday and Friday—the days of the protests—leading some to think the outages could have been an attempt by the government to suppress the demonstrations. The protests took place in pockets of the country and remained largely peaceful as residents chanted and blocked traffic. Most in the capital city of Havana regained their power by last Friday as authorities gradually restored electricity across the island.
PALESTINE: At least 100 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem this year as Israeli forces have ramped up raids, the BBC reported on Sunday. The death toll includes militant group members, protesters, and unarmed civilians. Most were fatally shot by Israeli soldiers, and children accounted for nearly one-fifth of the fatalities. Israel and Palestine have blamed each other for the ongoing fighting. Many of the resulting deaths are prompting rights organizations to seek an investigation by the International Criminal Court into possible war crimes committed by groups on both sides.
LIBYA: Authorities exhumed 42 unknown bodies from a mass grave in the northern coastal city of Sirte, according to the General Authority for Research and Identification of Missing Persons. The bodies found at the site of a former school were taken to a hospital for DNA analysis. Officials believe the remains belonged to people killed by the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group that controlled the city from August 2015 to December 2016. The mass grave in the Jiza al-Bahriya area is one among many in Libya, where warlord Khalifa Haftar and affiliated militias committed atrocities against civilians.
GERMANY: While Europeans are bracing for higher energy bills and cutting back on heating this winter, Feldheim villagers can still enjoy cheap electricity and natural gas, and they export about 250 times as much electricity as they consume. An hour and a half south of Berlin, Feldheim has 55 wind turbines, its local electrical grid, solar panels, battery storage, and a biogas plant serving its 130 inhabitants. The energy-self-sufficient village contrasts starkly with the rest of Europe, which has been dependent on fossil fuel imports and faces an energy crisis connected with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
WORLD Asia correspondent Joyce Wu contributed to this report.
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Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.
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