Haiti: As Cholera Spreads, Frustration Builds

Haitians grow impatient with epidemic, sparking civil unrest.

November 18, 2010, 1:16 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 18, 2010 — -- On the ground in Haiti, it's not just cholera that's spreading -- it's anger.

Frustrated Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for the cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1,100 people, and angry riots have broken out targeting the Haitian government.

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Today, protestors set up roadblocks and hurled rocks at peacekeepers, who fired back. The protest came on the heels of similar violent outbursts that have occurred in northern Haiti over the last three days.

The rage has been fueled both by rumor and harsh reality. Cholera is new to Haiti, and some Haitians believe that it was brought to their country by U.N. soldiers from Nepal, though the U.N. denies responsibility.

Regardless of the source, the Haitian government certainly has not provided enough clinics, hospital beds or medical supplies to fight a rapidly spreading disease.

The contagion first was seen in rural parts of the country, but now it's ripping through Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. The bodies of the dead are disinfected because the disease can pass from corpses, a source of major concern to Haitians.

Cholera spreads through contaminated fecal matter. Just last week, cholera-infected sewage was dumped into Haiti's biggest river, which delivers the same water that women use to wash clothing.

The disease easily can be prevented through good sanitation and purified drinking water, but both were elusive in Haiti even before the earthquake rattled the country in January. Many Haitians still do not have access to toilets or clean water sources, let alone health care.

Cholera effectively can be treated through rehydration, but the government does not have enough supplies to meet the urgent need.

One Family's Suffering

Even if health leaders find a way to fight back soon, it's already too late for many families.

Yvose Savelise lost her home in the earthquake, and now she's lost her only son to cholera.

"He's the one who used to take care of me. Now he's dead. Now I has nothing," Savelise said. "The government don't do nothing."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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