Cholera rages in Haiti, homeless displaced — new president chooses repression
Aug 6, 2011
The desperate situation of the Haitian people has given rise to political
tensions in the country’s Parliament and anger among the people against
the U.S.-backed regime. The only effective aid for combating the cholera
epidemic has come from socialist Cuba.
Parliament rejected Haitian President Michel Martelly’s first choice
for prime minister. He then picked Bernard Gousse, who was dismissed as justice
minister seven years ago under U.S. pressure because he was “so
repressive, uncontrollable and ineffective,” according to WikiLeaks
revelations as reported in Haïti-Liberté. (July 28-Aug. 2) Gousse
also faces significant opposition in Parliament.
On July 25, in an incident still being investigated, Member of Parliament
Dionald Polyte was shot and killed by one of his bodyguards. On the same day,
MP Romain Masset was greeted with rocks and bottles when he tried to visit his
hometown. His mother’s house was burned down, and Masset escaped with
On July 24 Martelly was greeted with rocks and bottles when he visited a
suburb of Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city. The cops arrested
about 30 people.
With the coming of the rainy season, cholera has struck widely in Haiti,
especially in the north. Thousands of people are falling sick, many of them
dying. In Port de Paix, the hospitals are so full they have had to turn away
desperately sick people. (HLLN news feed, July 29)
The Lancet medical journal says that the extent of the cholera epidemic has
been undercounted. (March 16)
In a country with adequate sanitation, clean water, available rehydration
supplies and ample antibiotics, cholera would not pose a serious threat.
However, there are no public sanitation facilities in all of Haiti — just
open channels. Less than half the people had access to potable water before the
quake. After the quake, the supply for the 630,000 people living in displaced
persons camps is haphazard.
Cuba leads the way in cholera epidemic
Both the United States and Cuba have responded to the cholera epidemic. The
differences are readily apparent.
A State Department fact sheet issued in January says that the U.S. has
supplied $41 million to the Haitian government’s efforts and helped set
up a coordinating center in Port au Prince. As normal for projects run through
the U.S. Agency for International Development, however, most of that $41
million was spent in the U.S. for supplies delivered.
Cuba, which has had a significant medical presence in Haiti for 12 years,
reinforced its aid after the earthquake and increased it again after the
cholera epidemic began last year. About 1,300 Cuban medical personnel are now
Health authorities from Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic exchanged
experiences at a conference in Santo Domingo in late April. UNICEF and the Pan
American Health Organization praised the approach of the Cuban medical brigade
in Haiti. They said that Cuba had taken a “major step” forward in
infectious disease treatment.
Lorenso Sommariba, head of Cuba’s Medical Brigade, said the Cuban
teams had engaged in “active research.” They visited 292,875
houses, contacted 1.4 million people, brought 5,342 patients to assistance
centers and instructed more than 3 million Haitians on the prevention and
treatment of cholera. (Cuba International, no. 379)
Housing is in crisis
While cholera is killing a thousand people a month, all levels of the
Haitian government are trying to force people out of the camps with ripped
tents and jerry-rigged huts that still shelter more than 600,000 people who
were made homeless in the aftermath of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.
At its height, more than 1 million people were in these camps, which are
scattered all over Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas devastated by the
earthquake. Some who had lived in the camps left to get shelter with family
members in rural Haiti, where it is hard to earn a living. Others moved back to
their old neighborhoods to live in tottering buildings that haven’t yet
The government uses the force of bulldozers, front-loaders and police to
scrape away the tents and huts. Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye reports that the
cops attacked Camp Django in Delmas, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, and beat up
protesters. About 250 families lived in the camp. They were offered 5,000
gourdes ($125) to leave, but got no other help, no leads on new housing or
schools for their children. (www.defend.ht)