PORT AU PRINCE - The death toll from cholera in Haiti passed 1,200, according to new figures from the country`s health ministry.
The death toll is now put at 1,250, a month after the disease was first detected in the Artibonite region. That region remains hardest-hit bit the death toll now includes 64 in Port-Au-Prince, the country`s capital that was devastated by a January 12th earthquake and where over a million survivors continue to live in squalid tent cities with poor sanitation.
The Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica said Saturday it will be mobilizing a team of Jamaican medical and support personnel to send to help its CARICOM neighbor.
The team will assist in combating the cholera epidemic now ravaging that country, the OPM said in a statement. In addition to medical practitioners, the contingent will include Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) personnel, who will provide logistical support and security. They will take with them medical supplies for the treatment of patients, as well as water treatment applications.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding, as Chairman of CARICOM, said Saturday he has been in touch with other CARICOM governments, as well as the Special Representative to Haiti, P.J. Patterson, in coordinating the Community`s response to this latest crisis.
The PM`s push to help comes as Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières said critical shortfalls in the deployment of well-established measures to contain the cholera epidemic is undermining efforts to stem the ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti.
Despite the huge presence of international organizations in Haiti, the cholera response has to date been inadequate in meeting the needs of the population, the agency said.
`MSF is calling on all groups and agencies present in Haiti to step up the size and speed of their efforts to ensure an effective response to the needs of people at risk of cholera infection,` said Stefano Zannini, MSF head of mission in Haiti. `More actors are needed to treat the sick and implement preventative actions, especially as cases increase dramatically across the country. There is no time left for meetings and debate – the time for action is now.`
The following actions must be prioritized, said Doctors Without Borders:
• Reassuring a population frightened by a disease that is completely unknown in the country, including by publicly communicating the low risk and positive benefits of having properly-run cholera treatment centers in close proximity to communities:
• Providing safe, chlorinated water to affected and at-risk communities nationwide, in addition to blanket distributions of soap;
• Building latrines and safely removing waste on a regular basis;
• Ensuring waste management and removal at medical facilities, in order to prevent contamination;
• Establishing waste disposal sites close to urban areas in appropriate and controlled environments;
• Establishing adequate oral rehydration points in areas where cholera cases are appearing;
• Maintaining a safe and efficient network for referral of severe cases to cholera treatment centers;
• Ensuring safe removal and burial of dead bodies.
The top United Nations humanitarian official in Haiti has voiced concern over the slow response to an appeal sent out nine days ago seeking $164 million to curb the spread of the cholera outbreak that has infected nearly 20,000 people and killed hundreds over the past month.
`While we are very grateful for the contributions received so far, both cash and in-kind, so far we only have received less than 10 per cent of what we need,` Nigel Fisher, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, said.
`Critical supplies and skills are urgently needed. We need doctors, nurses, water purification systems, chlorine tablets, soap, oral rehydration salts, tents for cholera treatment centres and a range of other supplies,` he said.