News on cholera in Haiti

There is much to talk about when the United States is involved in a colossal scandal as a consequence of the documents published by Wikileaks, whose authenticity – independent of any other motivation on the part of that website – has not been questioned by anyone.

However, at this moment, our country is immersed in a battle against cholera in Haiti which, in its way, is becoming a threat for the rest of nations of Latin America and others in the Third World.

In the midst of the consequences of an earthquake that killed or wounded more than half a million people and caused enormous destruction, the epidemic broke out and, almost immediately, was aggravated by the calamity of a hurricane.

The number of persons affected by the disease rose yesterday, November 29, to 75,888, of whom 27,015 have been treated by the Cuban Medical Brigade, with 254 deaths, or 0.94%. The other state hospital facilities, NGOs and private, treated 48,875 people, of whom 1,721 died, indicating 3.03%.

Today, November 30, the Cuban Medical Mission which, incidentally, includes 201 graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine, treated 521 cholera patients, adding up to a total of 27,536.

Last Sunday, November 28, 18 people in a very critical condition arrived at the Cholera Treatment Center attached to the community reference hospital located in the L’Estère commune in Artibonite Department. They had come from a sub-commune called Plateau, and were immediately treated by the 11 doctors and 12 nurses from the Cuban Medical Brigade working there. Fortunately, they were able to save the lives of all of them.

On Monday 29th, 11 more patients arrived from the same sub-commune, among them, a child of five whose parents had died of cholera. Once again, their lives were saved.

Given that situation, Dr. Somarriba, head of the Medical Mission, decided to send an all-terrain vehicle with five doctors, two women nurses, one male nurse and a recovery therapist to the sub-commune, with the necessary resources for urgent attention to cases.

Of the five doctors, four are ELAM graduates: a Uruguayan, a Paraguayan, a Nicaraguan, a Haitian, and the head of the Cuban brigade in Artibonite department.

To reach the commune, they drove six kilometers by road, six more by causeway and, finally another two kilometers over rugged ground with all the equipment and resources on board to reach the commune.

Plateau is situated among five mountains with modest homes grouped at three points; the number of inhabitants is estimated at close to 5,000. There are no streets, nor electricity, nor businesses, as they informed us, and only one Protestant church.

The extremely poor population basically devotes itself to cultivating peanuts, corn, beans and squash.

When they reached Plateau, the church pastor offered to organize a treatment center within the church itself, with six cots and four pews of the faithful, which would allow the emergency admittance of 10 people.

Today eight were admitted, three in critical condition.

The neighbors say that around 20 people have died. That information does not appear in the official count of the dead. During the night they will work using the lamps they brought with them.

The Mission decided to set up a Cholera Treatment Center in that remote community, which will have 24 beds. All the resources will be sent tomorrow, including a generating plant.

They also informed that photo reporters came to the commune to see what was going on.

There were no deaths today, and another center, more to the north, has been opened, making for a total of 38 cholera treatment centers and units.

I am relating the case to explain the circumstances and methods of those waging the battle there against the epidemic which, with dozens of deaths every day, is already approaching 2,000 fatal victims.

With the working methods being implemented and the programmed reinforcement, it is unlikely that the number of dead will continue at the previous rate.

Knowing the passion with which the traditional electoral processes develop, aside from the typical abstentionism that characterizes many of them, we were concerned about what might happen in Haiti in the midst of the destruction and the epidemic. One basic and never violated principle is respect for the laws, parties and religious beliefs of the countries in which our doctors or the Henry Reeve Brigade are providing services.

Nevertheless, we were concerned about versions widely circulated by the international media presenting a scenario of generalized violence in the country, which was far from being the reality. The international observers were surprised at that news being divulged abroad, when in reality, for them, the events that did take place were isolated ones, affecting only a reduced percentage of citizens who exercised their vote.

The very leaders who called the people out onto the streets understood that, in the midst of the tragic situation in the country, it was not right to undertake actions that could provoke violent confrontations that would make it impossible to control and defeat the epidemic. If that objective is not achieved, it could become endemic and give rise to a health disaster in Haiti and a constant threat to the Caribbean, as well as to Latin America, where millions of poor people are accumulating in cities in growing numbers; and also for many other poor nations of Asia and Africa.

Moreover, do not ever forget that Haiti must be reconstructed from its foundations, with the help and cooperation of all. That is what we hope for its noble and selfless people.
| castro signature | MR Online
Fidel Castro Ruz
November 30, 2010
9:34 p.m.