Outbreak appears to be diminishing, says WHO

GENEVA, Switzerland, CMC – The World Health Organisation (WHO) Friday said that Haiti’s cholera outbreak appears to be diminishing nationwide but the death rate in rural areas remains alarmingly high.

The WHO said it is trying to keep the anti-cholera efforts in Haiti from collapsing.

“Even if many NGO’s are leaving for different reasons, there is an exit strategy,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said.

“WHO is working with the Ministry of Health to replace the NGOs that were running these cholera centers.”

She said the WHO won’t rest until Haiti’s mortality rate for cholera has been further reduced.

We are not giving up on getting it under one per cent,” she said, noting that as things stand now, cholera “will be a disease for the months and years to come in Haiti” despite it being previously unknown to generations of Haitians.

National mortality rates from cholera are down two per cent, from as high as nine per cent earlier, but in some rural areas, more than one-in-ten people who contract the disease die.

Figures provided by the Haitian government showed that there were 231,070 reported cases and 4,549 deaths since the epidemic began in October.

In Haiti’s Sud Est region, the mortality hit 10.7 per cent as of February 9, while in Nippes it was 6.7 per cent and in the Grande Anse region, 5.9 per cent.

But the WHO said the rate should be less than one per cent.

“It’s there (in rural areas) that we absolutely have to strengthen our efforts,” said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. humanitarian coordination office. “For that we need money.”

The UN said it is also concerned about the possible spread of the disease during Haiti’s upcoming Carnival season.

It has asked for US$175 million to deal with Haiti’s cholera outbreak, much of which is distributed to local partners and non-governmental organizations to carry out aid work. So far, however, donors have provided only US$80 million.