A Lesson in Response

With the recent cholera outbreak on the island nation of Haiti, health organizations around the world have been scrambling to find a solution to prevent future such epidemics from happening. Recent efforts from U.N. peacekeepers in the area have been met with disdain, as it is thought that a peacekeeping force from Tibet might have been to blame for the outbreak, which has so far killed 7,500 people in the island nation.

Other organizations, such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have met with more success, mainly in the area of early detection and treatment. Prevention has become an issue mainly due to the country’s archaic water and sewage systems, nonexistence in many areas. With 83% of the country of Haiti undeveloped, it is only a matter of time before Haiti is struck with another such epidemic.

Haiti’s culture and the relation it has to politics and government involvement with local communities led, for the most part, to delay in responding to the initial outbreak in mid-October 2010. After the ouster of the U.S.-backed Duvalier regime in 1986, the community health program was shut down amidst fears it had been infiltrated by the Duvalier paramilitary group, Tonton Macoutes. This, in turn, led to the disassociation with local communities and the Haitian government, which in turn hampered any organized response on the part of the government.

In order to truly develop preventative measures to forestall future such outbreaks, the country’s infrastructure in regards to water supplies and sewage treatment needs to be updated to bring the country into the 21st Century. While this has been estimated to cost in the area of $1 billion, there are few willing to make such an investment in the U.S. Also, reaffirming the public trust in their government is a step that will be necessary to oversee any countrywide infrastructure development efforts. Only then will real progress to a healthier Haiti be possible.

For more information about response to the health crisis in Haiti, visit: http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2012/11/14/learning-dance-together-lessons-haiti%E2%80%99s-experience-cholera