For three years, the United Nations has refused to address whether its peacekeepers brought a deadly strain of cholera to Haiti, insisting instead that it was more important to help the country stanch the disease once and for all.
But on that score, it is still very far behind. In some ways, Haiti is even less equipped to tackle cholera than it was three years ago.
The United Nations raised barely a fourth of the $38 million it needed last year to provide lifesaving supplies, including the most basic, like water purification tablets. Clinics have run short of oral rehydration salts to treat the debilitating diarrhea that accompanies the disease. Some treatment centers in the countryside have shut down as the aid groups that ran them have moved on to other crises. And a growing share of patients are dying after they finally reach hospitals, according to the United Nations’ own assessments.
Josilia Fils-Aime, 11, who lives in this village on an isolated spit of land near the Artibonite River, where the epidemic first began, knows these shortcomings all too well. Her family had run out of water purification tablets, and she drank water from what must have been a polluted stream nearby.
Josilia Fils-Aime, for instance, most likely survived because Partners In Health, a nonprofit that has worked in Haiti for years, opened a satellite clinic near her home. The next closest cholera treatment center would have required a two-hour trek, including a boat ride.
“In any other country, you would declare it a humanitarian disaster,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, a health policy adviser for Partners in Health. “What’s going to happen when the rainy season starts?”
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