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Haiti - Epidemic : When ignorance and lack of authority endanger the public
27/10/2010 13:35:08

Haiti - Epidemic : When ignorance and lack of authority endanger the public
The construction of a Cholera Treatment Centre of 400 beds (CTC) was stopped, Monday, Oct. 26, when a group of people (including many young people) have demonstrated violently against the opening of the facility. Several tents of the center were burned. There were no serious injuries resulting from the demonstration.

"The ultimate consequence is that we are now unable to respond to the cholera outbreak in the Artibonite region in the most effective manner and under the best possible conditions," said Francisco Otero, head of MSF’s emergency response teams in St. Marc. "This facility was critical to relieving the burden of the high number of cases on Saint-Nicolas hospital and ensuring rapid treatment of critical cases. [...] Close proximity of a CTC to a community does not pose an additional risk to the population. On the contrary, a CTC located in a cholera-affected area affords rapid treatment, helping to ensure lifesaving care to critical cases and to mitigate against further spread of the disease. Rapid onset of diarrhea and vomiting from cholera infection can be lethal in less than 24 hours if left untreated."

It has been recommended by the Ministry of Health to dismantle the CTC, which was being assembled on a football field near the hospital, in order to relieve tensions with the community and to give the opportunity to further reassure the population that the facility does not pose any risk to them. The Haitian authorities have stated that they will propose another location for the CTC. It had been previously authorized to be placed there.

"A functioning CTC would have relieved pressure on the hospital, allowing it to continue its normal function in service to the population. It also would have provided optimal hygiene control, which is fundamental to cholera treatment." deplores a spokesman of MSF which recalls that at present MSF is treating cholera, at eight of its facilities in the Artibonite region and in and around Port-au-Prince. MSF teams have responded to cholera outbreaks in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Zambia.

It is unfortunate that ignorance of the people, can exacerbate a situation already extreme, but it is even more deplorable that the lack of authority of a government incapable of enforcing its decisions in an area declared on "high alert" and to contribute, while agreeing to yield to the population, to more endanger this same population, it is supposed to protect.

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