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Haitian people suffer another man-made disaster: cholera

Eleven months after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, the country is now suffering from an outbreak of cholera. This deadly water-borne disease, which thrives in the unsanitary conditions in which many earthquake survivors still live, has killed around 2,000 people and more than 96,000 are infected.

Haiti, which has not seen a cholera outbreak for 100 years, has diagnosed cases in all 10 regions of the country.

This outbreak is a serious threat to 1.3 million survivors living in tent camps near the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Stefano Zannini, chief of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres’ mission in Haiti, has criticised the response to the epidemic as “inadequate”, in view of the huge presence of aid agencies there.

A widespread belief that United Nations ‘peacekeepers’ in Haiti were the source of the outbreak provoked riots and attacks on UN personnel in the worst-affected regions, with suspicion focused on Nepalese troops in particular.

Oxfam and other aid agencies have blamed the violence for preventing them from delivering sanitary supplies and diarrhoea treatments, while UN officials blamed the rioting on Haitian oppositionists accused of trying to ‘disrupt’ the rigged presidential and parliamentary elections held on 28 November.

Originally scheduled for February, elections were delayed because of the earthquake, after which the US sent 10,000 troops to the country to ‘impose order’ and shore up the current government, interfering with genuine humanitarian aid efforts in the process. The election was widely condemned for ballot stuffing by government supporters, while legitimately registered voters were turned away.

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