Haiti riots disrupt cholera treatment efforts

Thursday 18 November 2010 17.09
Haiti - Over 1,000 people have died in epidemic (Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières)
Haiti - Over 1,000 people have died in epidemic (Photo: Médecins Sans Frontières)

Clashes have erupted in Port-au-Prince between UN forces and hundreds of Haitians as unrest targeting peacekeepers blamed for the cholera outbreak spread to the capital.

Riots in the city of Cap-Haitien have already disrupted international efforts to tackle a spreading cholera epidemic.

The clashes are increasing the risk of infection and death for tens of thousands of poor Haitians in the north.

The situation in Haiti's main northern city remains tense following two days of unrest.

Yesterday, protestors angry over the unchecked epidemic attacked UN peacekeepers and set up burning barricades of tires, UN officials said.

The UN mission in Haiti said it received a local police report of about 200 protestors stoning a hospital outside Cap-Haitien and 'foreign doctors' at the site.

The cholera epidemic had killed 1,110 people and sickened 18,382 as of Monday.

It has piled misery on the Caribbean country as it struggles to recover from a massive January earthquake and prepares for crucial elections on 28 November.

The violence in Cap-Haitien, in which some armed protestors fired on UN troops and two demonstrators were killed, prevented cholera patients from reaching hospitals and halted distribution of medicines.

Dozens of people were injured.

Protestors blamed UN Nepalese peacekeepers for bringing the cholera to Haiti, a charge denied by the UN mission.

Local media reported bodies of cholera victims - a major infection threat - being left in the streets of the city of close to 1 million, where aid agencies are battling to contain the fiercest spike of the month-old Haitian cholera epidemic.

Oxfam spokesperson Julie Schindall said vital time was being lost to combat a fast-acting diarrheal disease where hours can mean the difference between life and death.

Cholera is spread by contaminated water and food, but if caught early can be easily treated by oral rehydration fluids. If not treated, it can kill in hours.