NEW YORK - The earthquake made things in already-poor Haiti bad enough for Dr. David Walton, a Boston physician who has tended to sick, impoverished Haitians for 13 years. But now a cholera epidemic threatens to make the bad situation worse in the Caribbean nation where, says Dr. Walton, “the insults never end.”
Dr. Walton, who is in Haiti now, is affiliated with
As the death toll from cholera rises above 600, Walton, who works in rural areas of the country with the American health organization Partners in Health, believes it could be much higher. “Those are recorded deaths in the hospital,” says Walton. “Think about all the rural communities in which there are no doctors…no nurses -- there isn’t potable water – in which people are dying. [Cholera] is there and it’s much higher. We’re just not hearing about it,” he says.
“It makes me frustrated. I can understand if there was another earthquake that happened,” says Walton. “But cholera? It just seems like the insults never end.”
The cholera epidemic now spreading throughout the country began in the countryside and just exploded, says Walton. “It went from a few cases of diarrhea that were quite suspicious to…all hands on deck. This is an epidemic of the proportion of which we have…never seen before in Haiti.” Walton says what was 60 cases one day turned into 500 in only 24 hours.
“Look, we’re going to get through this,” says Walton. “However we do it, we’re going to do it…there is a way forward. We have to,” he tells Pitts.
Helping to spread the epidemic is the fact that many Haitians left homeless by the earthquake live in teeming tent cities as they await temporary shelter. But little can be built until the quake’s rubble is removed. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says the problem is the country has received just 15-20 percent of the $5 billion aid it was promised. “Right now we don’t have the budget or the financing to remove the rubble that has to be removed,” says Bellerive.
Another frustrated advocate for Haiti is former President Bill Clinton, who is co-chairing the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. “It’s all frustrating because people are suffering down there. I’m frustrated we don’t have more jobs and investment…we haven’t fixed all the ports and airports,” says Clinton. “My job is just to push as hard as I can and get as much done as quick as I can.”
Byron Pitts interviews Walton and others, including former President Bill Clinton, for a 60 MINUTES report on Haiti to be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 14 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.