Cholera-hit Haiti needs nurses, doctors: U.N.

Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:15pm EST
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By Pascal Fletcher

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Haiti needs a surge of foreign nurses and doctors to stem deaths from a raging cholera epidemic that an international aid operation is struggling to control, the United Nations' top humanitarian official said.

About 1,000 trained nurses and at least 100 more doctors were urgently needed to control the epidemic, which has struck the impoverished Caribbean nation months after a destructive earthquake.

The outbreak has killed more than 1,400 Haitians in five weeks and the death toll is climbing by dozens each day.

"We clearly need to do more," Valerie Amos, the U.N.'s Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told Reuters in Port-au-Prince during a visit seeking to increase the scale and urgency of the cholera response.

"But it's not just money, it's crucially people, in terms of getting more doctors, nurses, more people who can help with the awareness-raising and getting information out there," she said in an interview late on Tuesday at the U.N. logistics base in Port-au-Prince.

The real death toll may be closer to 2,000, U.N. officials say. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are likely to catch the disease, they say, and the epidemic could last a year, complicating an arduous recovery from the January 12 earthquake.

Amos said the United Nations would reach out to countries and aid organizations with the potential to rapidly supply medical staff, for example Cuba, which already has about 400 doctors and other health personnel in Haiti.

Despite the health crisis, Haiti is going ahead with presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, as the United Nations and aid groups desperately try to drum up more international funding and support to fight the unchecked cholera crisis.   Continued...

<p>Haiti residents infected with cholera receive treatment in a clinic set up by the International Red Cross in Port-au-Prince November 24, 2010. REUTERS/Kena Betancur</p>