One Year Later: Cholera Keeps Rising In Haiti, Vaccine On The Way

Cholera has killed more people in Haiti in one year than in all other countries in the world combined in 2010

Cholera has killed over 6,500 Haitians in the past year, and nearly half a million people — about 5% of the country’s population — have been treated for the disease since it was detected in 2010, according to the nonprofit, Partners in Health. Indeed, cholera has killed more people in Haiti in one year than it did in all other countries in the world combined in 2010.

Yesterday, Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of the group that has been working in Haiti for 25 years, spoke to reporters about the need to greatly intensify efforts to stop the epidemic, and mount a more comprehensive response, including vaccinating about 100,000 Haitians with a cholera vaccine that is “safe, proven, effective.”

(The cholera vaccine, never before used in Haiti, will be rolled out beginning in January, PIH says.)

Here’s a bit of what Farmer said on the call (transcribed by PIH) which you can listen to here.

On the Need for a More Integrated Approach:

“What we’re calling for, a year into the epidemic, is a prompt integration of these prevention and care and treatment measures, including: chlorinated water at the household or village level, hand washing and hygiene measures, building up systems that haven’t previously had them, improved case-finding, treating with oral rehydration salts and finally integration of oral cholera vaccine.”

On Stopping the Water Insecurity:

“Some years ago, PIH and many sister organizations began talking about the right to water. We did so because those of us who are clinicians, we can sit in our clinics and work in our hospitals and wait for people to come in sick with complications of water-borne diseases, or we can work with public authorities and appropriate NGO partners and others to build real water security in Haiti. We’ve been sounding that drum for some years now.”

On AID Agencies Are Leaving Haiti:

“There’s been this steady erosion of support, people coming in and leaving, it’s been ADD of humanitarian work, it’s just so short term. But we’re not there for the short term, our partners are Haitian, we work with the Ministry of Health, our organization is really fundamentally a Haitian organization. And we, unable to retreat to some other activity or some other place in the world, are now probably putting in a half million dollars a month into cholera.”

On the Increased Production of Cholera Vaccine:

“This entire debate should sound familiar… [because there were] the same discussions around HIV. The failure of imagination regarding price and this fetishized cost — that it had to cost $10,000 per patient per year [for HIV], which was absurd at the time, because it’s not as if these drugs or the vaccines were made out of platinum… they could easily be manufactured, and the same plunge in prices with the increased demand, we expect to see that with cholera vaccine, and that of course will help us to have a global vaccine stock pile”

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