Haiti - Cholera Epidemic : An apocalypse scenario
At the beginning of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO), in a first scenario, had estimated that the number of infected people could reach 270.000 over several years, causing nearly 10,000 deaths, taking as a model, the Peruvian epidemic of 1991. Recall that the cholera epidemic in Peru, which has spread over 16 countries, and was eradicated in 2005, has infected nearly a million people and left more than 10,000 victims in 14 years.
The situation in Haiti worsened rapidly, experts have reviewed their epidemic model for Haiti, based this time on the cholera outbreak of Zimbabwe in August 2008. In this second scenario, they planned that the epidemic in Haiti, could infect 200,000 people and make more than 10,000 deaths in the next 6 to 12 months if there was no improvement. A warning given by Dr. Ciro Ugarte, of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a branch of WHO, which stressed however, that this was the "darkest" scenario. Recall that in Zimbabwe, with a population of 12 million inhabitants, cholera had reached 89.000 people and caused 4.000 deaths (mortality rate approaching 5%), the first 8 months (although the WHO acknowledges that these figures were under-estimated). It took 2 years and nearly a billion dollars to control the epidemic in the African country, which had a water distribution system superior to that of Haiti.
With 60.240 cases infected and treated whose 25.248 which have required a hospitalization and 1.415 victims in 39 days in Haiti (assessment of November 20th, 2010), Health experts now propose a third scenario, because the spread of the epidemic in Haiti is not comparable to any previous epidemics in the world. In this third apocalypse scenario, Dr. Jon Andrus, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) now estimates that it could be up to 400,000 cases of cholera in Haiti in the next 12 months, including 200,000 in the next 3 months. "We work with key partners to refine these preliminary estimates in order to improve and maintain a sustainable response to the epidemic."
Adding "Given the extremely poor sanitary conditions (58% of the population lacks access to safe drinking water) that existed long time before the quake, and worsened after the hurricane and with the cholera epidemic, we expect to see the number of cases continue to increase ", adding that "the epidemic has not yet reached its peak. We do not know when it might occur".
Mr. Nigel Fisher, the coordinator of UN humanitarian action in Haiti, citing figures in circulation, said the reality was rather be close to 2000 dead and 60 to 70 000 cases, due to difficulties faced in obtaining accurate statistics on the impact of the epidemic in remote and isolated areas of the country. He stressed how important it is to conduct an accelerated implementation of programs of access to water and sanitation. "Beyond financial resources, we need more doctors and more nurses," he said, recalling that the epidemic continues to spread over the months or even years to come .
Mr. Fischer stated that all departments of Haiti had been affected. He recalled that a person could be affected by the virus and be the vehicle for several days before the effects of the disease become evident. The person may even be asymptomatic carrier of the virus (without reporting symptoms) and infect others.
The UN has launched ten days ago a call for 164 million dollars (121 million euros), but only 6.8 million (4.14%) have been funded so far. "The funding is too low. This is a situation of extreme urgency, a matter of hours. The epidemic does not wait and continues to evolve," said the spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Elisabeth Byrs. She also added that it was urgent to replenish stocks of equipment and drugs and replace staff that is exhausted recalling that it is necessary to have an average of "130 people to take care a cholera treatment center with 100 beds.
Among health experts that seem to have great difficulty in modeling the evolution of this epidemic "unprecedented," particularly virulent and fast in Haiti and the international community which seems uninterested in the plight of Haitians by not bringing the financial assistance of extreme urgency demanded by the UN, what remains as a hope for Haiti ? A miracle ? It is true that if our country had natural resources other than its endemic poverty, the situation would probably be very different in the eyes of donors.