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Haiti Watch: Disease Threatens Infants and No Plans to Stop It

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Georgianne Nienaber       (Page 2 of 2 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Image: Mosquitoes hatching in pooled water.

Image: Storm drain in Port-au-Prince used for bathing and washing

On March 22, OCHA, the United Nations office that coordinates humanitarian affairs, issued a report that supports Dr. Wilson's concerns. The average number of people per latrine, where there are latrines, is 411, with a total of 4,275 latrines are needed to assure minimum standards and 10,687 to assure Sphere standards. In Cite Soleil, which is the poorest area, less than 28% of respondents had received any aid from relief organizations. There is lack of follow up on medical care, if any at all.

Again, we witnessed this area first hand. The lack of even the basics of shelter and water is obvious, and the fact that this area has been so ignored is a travesty and immoral. We also witnessed first hand the fear of aid organizations to go into these some of the camps, while we traveled freely with no armed guards or personal protection. I told a friend here in the States that I felt they were cowards. She replied, "They are despicable cowards," and I would now echo that sentiment.

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So what do we do when there is no time for hand-wringing and recriminations because aid organizations will not share information because they are protective of turf and funding?

Here are some of Dr. Wilson's suggestions:

The primary recommendation is for his organization to immediately deploy in Haiti, create a stockpile of countermeasures, maintain an early warning system, and "manage Intercept teams to assist with rapid response by deploying countermeasures to sites that need them."

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"We are in bad, urgent need of funding to do this," he wrote this morning.

"We cannot obviously build a US-comparable sewage system, but the provision of adequate drainage would at least keep raw sewage from flowing through folks' tents and shelters, Wilson says.

The above said, it is my belief there are certain things we can do, and many that are insurmountable before the coming rains. Note we are taking a posture of mitigation and expected response. It is our belief it is important for the Haitian public to see and understand we will do everything in our power to mitigate the threat of diarrheal disease, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Haiti's children, and the top candidate for causing an unexpected and non-routine excession of mortality in the next 30-60-90 days.

Wilson is using social networking via Twitter and Geochat to link data.

What is Geochat? It is a very powerful text message capability to enable us to rapidly inform each other of events or to simply ask a pressing question about a possible infectious disease event. You can even run RSS feeds through the group, as we will do for our Situation Reports and advisories. This enables you to have nearly instantaneous access to information even while in Haiti, so long as your phone is turned on and you are in range.

Want to join? Click on this link, or copy & paste it into your browser's address bar if that doesn't work.

You can also follow Dr. Wilson on Twitter.

Image: Wilson and Keenan at flooded camp area in Petionville. Haitians refer to this camp as the the "Club Med" of camps.

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An added note. Dr. Wilson, Like Dr. Tiffany Keenan, is currently funding his work through his own 401K. It is running out and he is concerned about his own family's welfare back in Seattle. Why are we letting this happen when millions and millions of dollars are being literally flushed down the money pit in Haiti?

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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