Haiti’s cholera outbreak death toll is likely “much higher” than reported and expected to rise, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, warning the country’s multiple crises would complicate the humanitarian response.
The crisis-wracked Caribbean nation said Sunday that at least seven people had died from cholera, raising fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case.
Multiple suspected cases had been detected in Carrefour-Feuilles on the edge of the capital Port-au-Prince, and in the coastal neighbourhood of Cite Soleil.
The areas are entirely controlled by gangs and access to them has been very difficult since the end of July 2022.
Conditions in Haiti have worsened in recent weeks with blockades, fuel shortages, protest marches, looting and general strikes.
“This situation greatly complicates the humanitarian response”, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“The situation is evolving rapidly, and it is possible earlier cases have been undetected.”
He said the death toll figures could be “much higher”.
“With the humanitarian situation as it is, the sanitary situation, and the gang-controlled areas where there’s hardly any access to control, to test or even to bring in assistance, we should expect, unfortunately, cases to be higher and to rise,” he said.
Lindmeier said a request was being prepared to be submitted to the international coordination group for the procurement of oral cholera vaccines.
In February this year, Haiti celebrated three years without a single confirmed cholera case and was preparing to submit its case for cholera-free status certification at the end of 2022.
Cholera killed around 10,000 people in the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, when United Nations workers helping the response introduced it to the country.
That historic first outbreak affected at least 820,000 people and caused 9,800 deaths, the WHO said.
The first viral infections were detected around the Artibonite River, where UN peacekeepers had dumped fecal matter.
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