Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse in Haiti, it does. Officials there are still moving forward with plans to hold the country’s general election on November 28, despite a vicious outbreak of cholera that has recently reached the capitol and has been worsened by multiple natural disasters.
So far more than 700 people have died and another 10,000 have taken ill since the outbreak began in late October. Health officials are also concerned that water dumped by recent Hurricane Tomas will only worsen the spread. CNN reported on Tuesday that the concern is that overflow from latrines and septic tanks could contaminate the fresh drinking water supplies and contribute to the spread of bacteria.
The news has lead the United Nations to issue an international appeal for $163 million to offset the costs of more doctors, medicines, and water purification equipment.
News that the outbreak has reached the country’s capital city of Port-au-Prince is especially worrisome given the fact that an estimated 1.3 million people there remain homeless after January’s catastrophic earthquake. The devastating quake cost upwards of 300,00 people their lives, but it also demolished the country’s already fragile infrastructure.
"For sure here in Port-au-Prince (the danger of the disease’s spread is in) proximity of the population," nurse Virgine Gauder told CBS News. "They are living in some slums, and there is really no space. The contamination really increases every day like this. And the concentration of the patients is in the slums, but today we saw already some patients outside of the slums. So them we don’t know where we are going, but it increases every day, every day."
There are still lingering questions about what exactly has happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid received in the months following the quake. This month’s presidential elections have also been the source of much controversy after U.S. pop star Wyclef Jean was ruled ineligible and support remains for exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Four million people will be eligible to vote on November 28 and decide the country’s next president, along with 99 members of the Chambers of Deputies and eleven of the country’s 30 Senate seats.
On Thursday, Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat appeared on Democracy Now and spoke with Juan Gonzalez about the impact of U.S. immigration policies on Haitian nationals. In January, the United States announced that it had extended the deadline for Haitian nationals who had been in the country prior to the earthquake to apply for Temporary Protective Status until January of 2011. But now, that deadline is less than two months away, and it’s unclear if it will once again be extended in light of the recent cholera outbreak.
As Danticat told Gonzalez:
… we’ve had cases in Florida, for example, where people who have escaped the– you know, who survived the earthquake, ended up in detention, you know, after coming here. So, it’s still–I mean, the treatment of the way Haitians, even survivors of the earthquake, are received are still–is still mired in the general, I think, confusion of immigration and very much needed immigration reform in this country.