When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, it shattered the country’s infrastructure and displaced millions of its citizens. The cholera epidemic that followed this natural disaster was a result of the foreign aid workers that entered Haiti in an attempt to provide relief efforts and establish refugee camps. Although the human populations living in the refugee camps were relatively unaffected by the virus, the land use and environmental issues that resulted from foreign aid efforts contributed to the flow of cholera in Haiti’s urban slums and rural areas.

 

History: The Disease and the Earthquake

Cholera is an infectious disease transmitted through infected food or water that results in acute diarrhea. Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports around 3-5 million new cases of cholera and about 100,000-200,000 consequent deaths. By improving sanitation and catching the disease early, outbreaks can be contained before they get out of hand. Please click below to learn more about the disease.

 

In early 2010, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake near the capital, Port-Au-Prince. This resulted in over 300,000 deaths and over 1.3 million Haitians losing their residences. Relocated to densely populated camps, the refugees suffered poor sanitation and lack of resources for years. Please click below to learn more about the earthquake.

 

Response

The response from the MSPP and the CDC was effective considering the lack of resources that they faced. With the majority of the country's health facilities severly threatened or destroyed by the earthquake the MSPP was forced to focus mostly on educating the public on cholera and hygiene. By opening cholera treatment centers, admistering vaccines, informing the public of hygeinc practices and the dangers of cholera, and improving WASH (water, sanitation, health) centers, the fatality of the disease decreased from 4% to 1%. To learn more, please click below.

Spread of Cholera

The spread of cholera in Haiti was the result of improper sanitation infrastructure, and poor land and water usage. The Artibonite River, the longest river in Haiti, served as the main vehicle for the spread of cholera from the source of the MINUSTAH camp to areas around the town of Mirebalais and beyond. A faulty sewage system caused waste to leak from the camp into the river. Refugees would drink the water and become sick. From there it spread quickly through the rest of the country. To learn more, please click below