Haiti’s first ever confirmed outbreak of cholera was recorded 10 months after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, resulting in over 820,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths. After more than three years with no reported cases, on 2 October 2022, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population confirmed two cases in the greater Port-au-Prince area. By 6 December 2022, the outbreak had grown to a cumulative total of 13,672 suspected cholera cases with 283 reported deaths.
As the UN called for international help to contain the cholera crisis the Pan-American Health Organisation (“PAHO”) delivered 1.17 million doses of oral cholera vaccines. The vaccination campaign started last week and targeted people over the age of one in major cities, including Port-au-Prince. Children account for two out of five cases and those suffering from severe malnutrition are three times more at risk of dying from the disease, reported UNICEF.
The assistance of international organisations has been crucial in the current political context of gang violence and political instability, which have severely constrained the government’s efforts stop the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, many non-governmental organisations have left the country due to the unstable security environment, a senior security expert in Haiti confirmed, “Even before President Moise’s death, the security situation, specifically gang violence, was really bad and many NGO’s left Haiti. I think nearly half of the capital’s metropolitan area was under the control of gangs.”
“Even before President Moise’s death, the security situation, specifically gang violence, was really bad and many NGO’s left Haiti.”
Senior security expert, Haiti
Fortunately, the PAHO has emerged as a major enabler of national vaccination campaign. It has counted on the support of international donors such as the US, through the US Southern Command (“SOUTHCOM”), that has donated medical equipment to relieve the strain on the Haitian healthcare system. The vaccine itself (“Euvichol”) was provided by the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision (“IGC”), which manages the global cholera vaccine stockpile, following a request by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population.
“Haiti has experience in managing cholera, but the fragile security situation has slowed down response efforts.”
Carissa F. Etienne, Director, PAHO
“Haiti has experience in managing cholera, but the fragile security situation has slowed down response efforts, so the arrival of these vaccines is most welcome,” PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said. “PAHO has been working with Haiti since the resurgence of cholera and will continue to support the national authorities to quickly distribute vaccines, monitor cases and provide life-saving care.”
Joint coordinated action has not prevented cholera from continuing to spread across the country, with eight from ten departments in the country already registering confirmed cases. The neighbouring Dominican Republic has already reported two cases as the constant migratory flow between the two countries in the Hispaniola Island accelerates transmission. Fortunately, regional neighbouring countries have not yet confirmed any cholera cases.