On January 12th 2010 an approximately 7. 0 magnitude earthquake hit the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, causing a multitude of problems to the nation and to the people. After an earthquake happens systematic actions and phenomena happen: profiteering, increase of criminal acts, diseases and epidemics. Haiti is a really poor country and the rate of illiteracy is very low compared to the one of other countries, so these problems become even more severe and contribute to create a situation of total chaos in the country.
Of course Haiti could not fix these problems by itself, so the United Nations intervened and is trying, till now, to establish order in the country. Nowadays, Haiti is affected by a huge outbreak of cholera that is making many victims among the population. Even though the infectious disease was totally eradicated from the country, about 18,000 people are infected by cholera in Haiti and caused 1,110 deaths approximately. The causes of the spread of cholera in Haiti are: 1) water contamination; 2) poor hygienic and sanitation system; 3) very little infrastructure to prevent and cure the disease.
The main cause that helped the cholera outbreak to begin was fresh water contamination. The reasons of water contamination in Haiti are due to the earthquake that happened in January of the same year, the populations living in Haiti and the extremely favorable climate conditions. The earthquake that stroke Haiti’s sewage system, allowing the water that was used in bathrooms to mix with water that was used to drink. As well, UNICEF reports say that before the earthquake happened people had a lot of problems with water, sanitation and hygiene.
Statistics say that only four out of 10 Haitian children had access to sanitation and only one out of ten in the rural areas, which covers 40% of the territory of Haiti. 5, Only five children out of ten could drink potable water from their home and only one out of twenty-five in the rural areas. 7 Very few schools had proper hygiene systems; most of the houses did not have proper sanitation and half of the rural population used to defecate in open air. ,8 After the earthquake in Haiti, UNICEF intervened and brought improvements in achieving potable water and minimum sanitation. People are another important factor that can make the balance of cholera outbreak change. Statistics say that the population of Haiti is mostly illiterate: in fact approximately 53% of the population doesn’t know how to read and/or write. It can be an obstacle to prevention of cholera, since most of the information regarding prevention is given through signs distributed through the communities.
This means that more or less one person out of two will be able to read the signs and prevent contagion. The third cause of water contamination is due to favorable climate conditions. Although rural areas experienced less damage from the earthquake, they were the first epicenter of the epidemic. The small communities along the Artibonite River, located 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince, have been using the river as a source of drinking and bathing water — until reports came that the river is the likely source of the outbreak.
In the last few decades, great strides have been made in unlocking the riddles associated with cholera and seasonal climate patterns. Dr. Colwell was among the first to find that cholera epidemics flare up during the wet spring and fall seasons, when excess precipitation creates favorable environmental conditions such as increased salinity and warmer temperatures in areas already suffering from poor sanitation and lack of clean water access. The Category 1 hurricane that hit Haiti’s coasts on Friday brought with it gale force winds of 85 miles per hour.
The wind and excessive rainfall have caused flooding in many parts of the country, and many fear that cholera will spread even more easily now with increased sanitation problems that could put raw human waste in the streets. The second main problem of Haiti, are sanitory and hygienic systems. People before and after the earthquake, had little access to proper sanition and had little hygiene. Very few schools had proper hygiene systems; most of the houses did not have proper sanitation and half of the rural population used to defecate in open air. ,8 After the earthquake in Haiti, UNICEF intervened and brought improvements in achieving potable water and decent sanitation. Unfortunately, it is not enough. Only 28% of the population had access to sanitation facilielities. This implies that most of the bathrooms were over used and consequently there was lack of hygiene. Lack of hygiene helps a lot the disease to be spread. The non-proper sanitation and sewage system helped the water to be contaminated. The third main problem that is helping cholera’s out break is the lack of proper infrastructures: hospitals, health care systems and houses.
Before the earthquake happenned there were little infrastructures, but after the earthquake almost 200,000 buildings were destroted or heavily damaged, in both cases unable to be used. Even before the January quake, basic infrastructure in Haiti was inadequate, ineffective, and generally poor. Since the earthquake, essential human services, including water sanitation, have been managed under the by the international relief agencies that intervened in Haiti.
The lack of decent road infrastructure is a major challenge for Haiti. An adequate road network is essential for the revitalization of the economy, in particular the agriculture sector, and the over-all development of the country. The government estimated in 2004 that 10 percent of the roads in Haiti were in good condition4, with 80 percent of the national road network in poor or very poor condition. National highways, 20 percent of the road network, are particularly important as they link the main commercial centers.
Major efforts were made since then and large parts of primary roads have been built in the North-East, Centre and West Departments, while preparatory work for a major road between the South and Grande-Anse Departments has started. Southeast, Artibonite and West Departments are involved in reconstruction of roads that will improve the communications. Medecins Sans Frontieres said that all three of its hospitals around the capital were either destroyed or so badly damaged they had to be evacuated.
It has set up several emergency surgical facilities under canvas, which have been working around the clock to treat “vast numbers” of patients. Bottlenecks in supplies and shortage of space meant they could treat only the most serious cases. Even though the situation in Haiti seems to be without hope, according to World Health Organization, the death rate due to cholera infection in Haiti is much lower now than when the outbreak exploded, in fact the death rate decreased from an initial 10% to a more less 7. 7% now.
This might be the effect of people “new” awareness towards the disease that has been infused by the fear of contracting cholera. Statistics say that 80% of the cases require only ORS (oral rehydration salts) but for the rest it is required an intravenous treatment. But prevention is the key factor that can resolve all the problems in Haiti. The population of Haiti was not aware of what was happening: they thought it was a normal diarrhea, since it is a very common intestinal disorder and because the last case of cholera in the country has been recorded more than fifty years ago.