Soon after the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, international experts declared the widespread risk for cholera, yet despite these pronouncements, it was as the disease hit hundreds of victims that the world started paying serious attention, months after warnings were made.
So what did they know and when did they know it, since the responses to the terrible ravages of cholera in Haiti and widespread problems are seemingly coming too late and too late for the thousands already sick or dying.
Georgianne Nienabuhr, is one of those intrepid reporters who has been on the scene off and on since early 2010, working with individuals and agencies and getting the news from the ground for the Huffington Post. Her descriptions of the cholera epidemic and the neglect of NGOs is chilling, which is evidence of the neglect not just of government groups but those who secured heavy donations from people around the world to help in the wake of the disaster.
Health experts maintained early on that earthquake survivors would face the problems of disease. That was said to be due to the poor health care systems, lack of clean water, and limitations on basic medical supplies.
At the time The Centers for Disease Control underlined the terrible problems faced by Haiti’s population following the earthquake disaster. The agency first declared a number of urgent concerns at the time, which included adequate quantity and quality of water, food security, shelter from the elements, and prevention of gastrintestinal, respiratory and vector-borne illnesses. The CDC warned of the potential of widespread diseases.
Time Magazine speculated on the potential for diseases and epidemics following the earthquake, mentioning that before the calamity Haiti already had serious public health issues. The report noted the following facts to support the thesis that Haiti will have a hard time surviving the earthquake:
” It is one of the poorest countries on earth, with only 1 in every 50 Haitians holding a steady job. No Haitian city has a public sewage system, and less than half the population has any access to drinking-water services. Malnutrition is rampant, nearly 200,000 people live with HIV or AIDS, and just half the childhood population is vaccinated against basic diseases like diphtheria. The quake will make it all unimaginably worse. “Haiti is not anywhere near ready to take care of itself,” says Dr. Alina Dorian, the assistant director of the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Public Health and Disasters. “They are already so vulnerable.”
Public health officials cited the upcoming problems as these:
“The potential is there for a worse outcome, but I think with aid organizations moving in quickly … I think they could do very well at mitigating the secondary effects of this disaster.” “The complicating factor is this is an anarchy society, that there is no security or police. And that could be major factor that could impact on the ability of the aid organizations to do their job.”
With Nienabuhr’s observations about the disorganization among the helping organizations on the ground in Haiti, it appears those warning bells were not needed when they were first sounded. Events have played out as predicted with the spread of cholera and the population’s protests as aid organizations work chaotically in the mix, despite those early warnings.
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