In Haiti, cholera flows down a river

Miami HeraldNovember 16, 2010 

GRAND SALINE, Haiti -- Residents of this desolate fishing hamlet use the sea as a toilet and water from the filthy river for drinking. The sea and river merge at a stagnant crossing at the edge of the village where many now worry about the deadly cholera epidemic sweeping the country.

But fear of the disease came too late for 7-year-old Feconne D'Ayiti. He died hours after drinking untreated river water, says his father, Fecky D'Ayiti.

``He began vomiting. He had diarrhea,'' said D'Ayiti, 26, a fisherman.

D'Ayiti is now certain that it was cholera that killed his son.

The arrival of cholera in Haiti was not a surprise, say observers. The Jan. 12 earthquake that left a government-estimated 300,000 dead and at least 1.5 million living in precarious tents and tarps -- mostly in the shattered capital -- merely shed the spotlight on long-known issues exacerbated by decades of bad governance and international Band-Aid solutions.

``It has always been a mystery for everyone who always wondered, `How is it that cholera never entered Haiti?' We have all of the conditions here for it to have existed,'' Dr. Evelyn Ancion Degraff of the World Health Organization said Sunday during a nationwide cholera broadcast. ``It's all a question about sanitary and personal hygiene.''

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