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U.N.: World’s Response to Haiti Cholera Epidemic "Completely Inadequate"

A top United Nations official has said the international response to an appeal to help combat Haiti’s growing cholera epidemic has been "completely inadequate." Since the appeal was made over a week ago, the United Nations has received only $5 million, far less than the $164 million requested. Nigel Fisher, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in the country, said critical supplies and skills are urgently needed to deal with the epidemic, which has killed more than 1,200 people and infected at least 20,000. Fisher said the lackluster response is especially troubling, given that cholera is a curable disease if quickly treated. Sophie Schnidal of Oxfam International said many more people might already be sick.

Sophie Schnidal: "It is quite difficult to track cholera, a very fast-spreading disease. At the same time, Haiti’s rural areas are terribly undeserved by healthcare—clinics, hospitals, etc. And we can assume that many, many people are suffering from cholera and not getting to hospital. The figures today are around 20,000 cases, I believe, but most of us agree that it’s going to be far higher, and I think the government also knows that it’s higher than that."

Mireille Tribie, a Haitian doctor with UNICEF, said more aid is urgently needed in Haiti.

Mireille Tribie: “It’s a decision between life and death. The microbe works rapidly. The dehydration is very rapid. Within hours, the person can loose all of its water. And that’s why — and they collapse. The persons dies. So it is very rapid, so that’s why now the message is do not waste time.”

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