Cholera Surges In Haiti As Rain Arrives Early : Goats and Soda Cholera has been spreading in Haiti for over four years. But this year looks especially bleak. In the first four months, there were nearly four times the number of cases as in the same period in 2014.
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Cholera Surges In Haiti As Rain Arrives Early

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Cholera Surges In Haiti As Rain Arrives Early

Cholera Surges In Haiti As Rain Arrives Early

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Cholera is spiking this year in Haiti. An unusually early start to the rainy season has meant a surge in cases of the waterborne disease. In the first four months of the year, cases were nearly 400 percent higher than in the same period last year. This outbreak began after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Peter Granitz has more from Port-au-Prince.

PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: At a government-run cholera treatment center in Diquini near Port-au-Prince, doctors treat a handful of patients. Among them is Givenchi Predelus. For five days, he's laid on this cot, towel over his midsection, IV in his arm, listening to tinny music on his bare-bones cell phone. Cholera causes profuse diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to death by dehydration, sometimes within a matter of hours. The high school sophomore speaks in a whisper, a sign of what cholera has done to his strength.

GIVENCHI PREDELUS: (Through interpreter) Only one other person in my area has cholera. She sells patties on the side of the road. I'm the second victim.

GRANITZ: Scientific studies show cholera was likely imported to Haiti in 2010 by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. Five years later, nearly 9,000 people have died and more than 730,000 have been infected. The U.N. says it is committed to eradicating cholera from Haiti, but has not accepted responsibility for inadvertently introducing the disease. Health workers say that early rains have contributed to the current spike in cases. Haiti has two rainy seasons, one that normally begins in April and ends in June, and another that coincides with the peak of Atlantic hurricane season.

Oliver Schulz until last week led Doctors Without Borders in Haiti. He says an unprecedented surge in cases at the end of last year and a harsh early start to the rains means this year will be bleak, and Schulz highlights Haitian behavior that could be contributing to the spread of the disease.

OLIVER SCHULZ: One of the main reasons is actually people breaking the water pipes - the official water pipes - to illegally take water. And by that, there's the risk of contamination. Now, if you have an open water pipe on the ground, there's a heavy rain. The rain maybe floods a latrine, brings the water. The water goes in the water pipe. It might contaminate the whole system.

GRANITZ: Haiti's health ministry says that as of May 2, more than 15,000 people have been infected and another 126 have died this year. But despite the grim totals, the numbers are slowing. The ministry says 2,400 cases were reported last month, down from 4,000 in January.

Back at the cholera treatment center, a man rushes in with his 1-year-old daughter. She already has an IV in her arm. Workers at a clinic near his home sent them by motorcycle taxi here to this better-equipped facility. She's vomiting, and workers rush to surround her metal cot with buckets. Across the room, Rinel Mathurin holds her 3-year-old daughter Williana, who after three days of treatment, can finally sit up. Rinel says the center's staff told her to watch Williana's interactions with other kids and urged her to avoid another contamination by disinfecting and purifying their drinking water.

RINEL MATHURIN: (Through interpreter) We need to treat water we drink with chlorine tabs. We need to clean the house with Clorox. We need to buy chlorine tabs.

GRANITZ: But she says chlorine tabs at the market cost money, and she's not sure she can afford them. For NPR News I'm Peter Granitz in Port-au-Prince.

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