Haiti said on Sunday that at least seven people have died of cholera in a surprise return of the disease that comes as the nation is paralyzed by a gang blockade that has caused fuel and drinking water shortages.
The disease killed an estimated 10,000 people through a 2010 outbreak that was blamed on a United Nations peacekeeping force. The Pan American Health Organization in 2020 said that Haiti had gone a year without confirmed cases of cholera.
“According to the information we have, the number of deaths is 7 to 8,” Health Ministry director-general Laure Adrien said during a news conference, adding that officials were struggling to get information from hospitals.
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“There was one death during the day today.”
The Health Ministry previously confirmed a case in the Port-au-Prince area and that there were suspected cases in the city of Cite Soleil, on the outskirts of the capital, which was the scene of fierce turf wars between gangs in July.
Since last month, gangs have been blockading the country’s main fuel port in protest at last month’s announcement of a fuel price increase. Many hospitals have closed or reduced operations due to lack of fuel for power generators.
Basic transit is now impossible for most citizens.
Caribbean Bottling Company, a key supplier of bottled water, said on Sunday that it could no longer continue to produce and distribute water because it had run out of diesel fuel, which is critical to its supply chain.
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Cholera causes uncontrollable diarrhea.
The disease is usually spread by water contaminated with the feces of a sick person, which means that clean drinking water is essential to prevent its spread.
Troops from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, were in Haiti as part of a UN peacekeeping force established in 2004 after the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The size of the force increased after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
The United Nations in 2016 apologized for the outbreak, without taking responsibility.
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An independent panel appointed by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon issued a 2011 report that did not conclusively determine how cholera was introduced to Haiti.
Panel members in 2013 independently published an article that concluded that personnel associated with the UN peacekeeping mission were “the most likely source”.