There have been more than 270 deaths due to cholera in Haiti and around 3 thousand infected people. The outbreak, which started in Saint Marc, has been spreading to the capital city, Port-au-Prince, where the first case was confirmed. Experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) consider that it is just a matter of time before cholera reaches Dominican territory, and it is under these circumstances that the Public Health Ministry, welcoming the recommendations of the the aforementioned international organization, has endeavored into a series of actions to limit and control the spread of this sickness. An expert's opinion published by Duarte 101 [es]:
Jon Andrus, subdirector de la OPS, dijo que, si bien no se han confirmado casos en República Dominicana, su despacho espera que se produzcan, “porque esa frontera es muy porosa. Al hablar de la eliminación de cualquier enfermedad en La Española, necesitamos hablar de planes que incluyan la isla entera”.
One of the first steps taken by the Public Health Ministry was the activation of emergency commissions, especially those in border zones, where public hospitals and their personnel have been reinforced with the idea that they can respond adequately to eventual cholera cases originating in Haiti or Dominican soil. Also, the government established a preventive and collaborative sanitary cord in the border with Haiti which encompasses the delivery to this country of many tons of chlorine to purify the water and also the dissemination of basic information about cholera in English and Creole, along with radio spots in both languages. The brochure that has been being distributed in the border starts with the question “What is cholera?” (“Kisa kolera -a ye?” in Creole) and mentions the main symptoms, the causes and the best way to prevent the sickness.
Other measure taken by the Dominican authorities was the temporary closing of the bi-national market, which was a motive for protests in Haiti, where confusion about the sanitary situation reigns. Rull Fernández, of Duarte 101 [es], has echoed this situation publishing declarations by doctor Anggie Serrano, who expressed surprise about the apparent disinformation of Haitians:
Lo que sí nos sorprende es que ellos se preguntan por qué tantos chequeos y porqué la suspensión del mercado. Nosotros entonces les decimos que han muerto muchos por el cólera y alegan que no saben nada de eso. Tal parece que estas personas no tienen acceso a la información.
The reaction that Serrano describes refers to the cautionary measures taken around the border, where at the moment incoming cooked foods from Haiti are prohibited and the passage of Haitians has been restricted to those that show visas and are willing to submit to health checks taking place at the border, where one of the first demands is that hands be washed.
The sanitary situation in Haiti has been gradually worsening since the 12th of January this year, when an earthquake with an intensity of 7.0 in the Richter scale devastated the capital, killing more than 300 thousand people, and submerged the nation in a profound state of emergency. Despite the funds promised by the international community and multiple meetings on the subject, Haiti still has not received this help, with the consequence that those who lost their houses are still living in improvised refuges where overcrowding and lack of hygiene reign. These two causes have contributed to the apparition of this cholera outbreak.
In view of the protests for the closing on the bi-national market, the Public Health Ministry reaffirmed yesterday that this was a temporary measure and that for the moment it is authorized to reopen, as long as the hygiene measures and controls established by the authorities are strictly followed.
Even when at the moment the first case of cholera in the Dominican territory has not been detected, the measures continues to be reinforced and the population is taking the situation very seriously. Al Momento.net [es] informs via Twitter that the precautionary measures are being extended to the touristic areas, while Elaine Nivar [es] makes a call to all Dominicans to be alert and take precautions. Julissa María [es] asks to pray for those sick of cholera in Haiti, where forecasts are not encouraging [es]: according to the World Health Organization (WHO) cholera has not reached its peak point in Haiti, and it will be difficult to erradicate.