November 15, 2010

A Black Day in Haiti and at the World MoneyShow

Last weekend I attended the World MoneyShow in London. On the night before the event it was confirmed that significant numbers of people had died from cholera in Port-au-Prince.  I've been blogging about this issue for over two years, and in my opinion that means many thousands more will die from the same cause in the not too distant future.

On Friday morning I dressed in black, then headed off past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. I took my video camera with me, and this is the first of a series of videos we will be releasing of my experiences on that day:

Today the Independent asks the question:

Where is the UN? Where is the help?

and reports that:

Thousands of Haitians infected with cholera could be suffering and dying without any help as aid agencies warn they are overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

Aid agencies last night took the unusual step of severely criticising both the government and the UN for failing to deal with an epidemic that has been threatening for more than a month. This comes amid clear evidence that the disease is spreading fast across the country and prevention efforts have thus far been woefully inadequate.

Cholera is caused by a highly contagious water-borne bacterium. Its spread is easily preventable but less than half of Haiti's population have access to clean water. It causes little trouble where water sanitation and hygiene controls are well established, but January's earthquake and last week's tropical storm Tomas have left the island extremely vulnerable. Less than 40 per cent of the aid pledged by all countries for 2010/11 has been delivered so far.

What is needed is clean water, decent sewage systems and, in the absence of these, education. Even when contracted, it is easy to cure with intense rehydration – clean water mixed with sugar and salt does the trick.

The Government of Haiti does provide some educational materials, and also the alarming official statistics. According to those the death toll on November 12th was 46, with a cumulative total of  917. The total deaths in Port-au-Prince is now up to 27.

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