cholerae

Cholera will plague Haiti until water, sanitation crisis solved: experts

By Anastasia Moloney BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Cholera will continue to kill and infect Haitians as long as they lack access to clean water and sanitation, with a thousand new cases reported each week, health experts say. Cholera, a water-borne disease caught by drinking and using contaminated water, has killed nearly 9,000 Haitians and infected 732,000 since it broke out in the country in late 2010. With the lowest levels of access to drinking water and sanitation in the Americas, Haiti is struggling to stamp out cholera, which resurged between October and December last year, said the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). During the first two months of this year, cholera cases totaled 7,225, including 86 deaths - higher than recorded during the same period in 2012 and 2014, said PAHO, the regional arm of the World Health Organization.

Twenty-three year old Viennese woman, before and after contracting cholera

One mid-19th century report describes cholera victims who were “one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms - the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse and blood congealed - blue, shrivelled up, convulsed”. Cholera causes profuse vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydrating the body so rapidly and severely that the blood thickens and the skin becomes deathlike and blue.

Image from the Wellcome Archives

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Traditionally, water symbolizes life and renewal, but in Sierra Leone it is also a vehicle for epidemic and death — the focus of photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz's project “Water Is Gold,” which documents the causes and effects of the country's recent cholera outbreak.

Last year, Sierra Leone experienced the worst cholera outbreak in its history, Abdulaziz writes for the Pulitzer Center, which funded his trip. There were 20,736 cases of cholera with 280 deaths since the beginning of 2012, he adds.

Abdulaziz spent most of his time in and around Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, which, he writes, was “built to support less than half the current population of 2 million.” The slums are overcrowded, unsanitary and sprawling — the perfect breeding ground for the disease.

Sierra Leone’s Water Of Life — And Death

Photo Credit: Mustafah Abdulaziz

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
—  Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Haitians sue UN over cholera epidemic

Human rights lawyers representing Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic filed suit in New York on Wednesday against the United Nations, accusing it of having introduced the disease to Haiti, where it has killed more than 8,300 people and sickened more than 700,000 since October 2010. 

The decision to file the class action lawsuit followed the U.N. decision earlier this year not to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation claimed by cholera victims in impoverished Haiti.

The plaintiffs are five Haitians and Haitian-Americans whose family members died of the disease or who were infected but survived. They have requested that the court certify the case as a class action, which would allow the plaintiffs to represent hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Haitian-Americans who suffered injuries or died from cholera.

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Photo: AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.
— 

Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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