WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are “working vigorously” with the Haitian government and international relief agencies in a joint effort to stop Haiti’s cholera outbreak from spreading and to treat the thousands of people already infected.
“We’re working very closely with the U.N. to boost its capacity and help ensure that this is truly a coordinated response, along with the government of Haiti, and we are eager to do everything possible to get ahead of this epidemic,” said Nancy Lindborg, an assistant administrator with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“On the prevention side, we’re mobilizing to train health workers and increase public awareness campaigns so that the Haitian population understands the importance of health hygiene, of drinking clean water and recognizing the first signs of cholera,” Lindborg said in a conference call with journalists.
In addition to preventing the spread of the disease, Lindborg said, agencies are working quickly to treat existing cases.
“We have mobilized cholera treatment centers and cholera treatment units, as well as oral rehydration points,” Lindborg said, noting a total of 53 centers are either active or planned for Haiti.
She said agencies have also significantly increased delivery of critical supplies, such as chlorine for water treatment, beds for those who require extensive medical care and enough oral rehydration sachets to benefit 600,000 people.
Even with these rapid relief efforts, Lindborg said she expects the outbreak to continue to grow.
“We, unfortunately, anticipate that, despite the most vigorous effort possible, Haiti will have a significant cholera presence for the next several years,” Lindborg said.
To prevent cholera and other diseases from spreading in the future, she said, Haiti needs to improve its water sanitation infrastructure.
“The hope and the goal is that a lot of the investments that have already been made as part of the reconstruction and that we are making now in response to the cholera epidemic will ultimately be a part of that longer-term solution and will help protect Haiti not just against cholera, but any number of infectious diseases that result from that poor infrastructure,” she said.
According to Haitian Ministry of Health data, there have been more than 84,000 cases of cholera and at least 1,800 deaths due to the outbreak, which was first confirmed October 20.