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UN Responds to 2022 Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

Cholera Outbreak in HaitiHaiti is a country in the Caribbean with a history of significant economic, political and social turmoil. Disease, natural disasters, violence, inflation, corruption and poverty are among the particularly relevant issues, hindering the nation’s overall growth. Haitians have been protesting against their government in hopes of change since 2018. However, recently, the protests have turned exceptionally violent following Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s announcement that the government would eliminate fuel subsidies in the nation, nearly doubling the cost of gas. Haiti can no longer afford to supply subsidies as fuel inflation is rising globally due to the Russo-Ukrainian war. And now there is another crisis to be addressed — a cholera outbreak in Haiti. 

Protest and Violence

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with approximately 52.3% of the Haitian population living below the poverty line, a 15.7% unemployment rate in 2021 and over $2 billion in external debt. The elimination of fuel subsidies has an immediate impact on the livelihood of millions of Haitians. In response to the policy change, gangs are firing gunshots on open roads, burning tires on city streets, ransacking and inflaming buildings, throwing stones and getting into physical altercations.

Many children are out of school, exacerbating earlier school closures from other protest-based violence and the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the lack of fuel has already resulted in the shutdown of water delivery companies, banks and grocery stores and has caused a reduction of critical hospital-based services available to Haitians. Additionally, unemployment is also on the rise as workers are no longer able to afford the commute to their jobs.

Cholera Outbreak

Amid all this instability in Haiti comes a recent detection of a  cholera outbreak in the nation. Cholera is a potentially fatal bacterial disease spread through contaminated food or water that causes severe dehydration and diarrhea. The previous cholera outbreak in Haiti was in 2010 and it had devastating consequences. There were more than 820,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths, many of which could have been prevented, had the country been equipped with better infrastructure.

As of October 6, 2022, there were 12 cholera cases, 152 suspected cases, 107 hospitalizations and four deaths in the country. In its current political and economic state, the nation cannot afford a widespread outbreak. This would result in the additional closure of essential businesses and ensure the closure of schools. The lack of education for Haiti’s youth in recent years is especially a cause for concern as oftentimes education can be the key to escaping extreme poverty.

Concluding Thoughts

Though both the outbreak and the protests are valid causes for concern, there is hope for the citizens of Haiti. On October 7, 2022, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund allocated $7 million for U.N. agencies and their partners to provide urgent life-saving assistance. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths stated that “We must stand with the people of Haiti in their hour of need, cholera is preventable and treatable. Left unchecked, however, an outbreak could lead to cataclysmic levels of despair for the people of Haiti, who are already enduring tremendous suffering.” Furthermore, Prime Minister Henry recently sent out a request for international aid in Haiti which the United Nations responded to stating it will “support efforts to build consensus, reduce violence and promote stability in the country.” Together, the world is working to relieve the crisis in Haiti.

– Aarika Sharma
Photo: Unsplash