Haiti on Sunday is launching a program to vaccinate more than 10 percent of its population against cholera, but gang control in large areas will hamper the effort.
The Caribbean country has 1.17 million oral contraceptives on hand, with nearly 500,000 more to come.
The campaign will focus on Haitians aged up to five, with half of confirmed crimes involving that age group.
Cholera has spread across the country since October. The National Department of Epidemiology, Laboratories and Research has registered more than 14,700 suspected cases, nearly 1,270 confirmed cases and more than 290 deaths.
Vaccines are a problem, said Jean Bosco Hulute, a health expert at the UN children’s agency UNICEF.
“Many countries are experiencing a cholera epidemic, resulting in a lack of vaccinations,” he told AFP.
Hulute noted that a single dose provides protection for six months, while a second dose can extend that to two full years.
The prevention campaign, planned to start from December 18 to 22 and then from 27 to 28, will focus on the most difficult areas and commissions, including Cite Soleil, Delmas, Carrefour, Port-au-Prince and Mirabelais.
But with gang violence ravaging the impoverished country, the effort will not be easy.
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“In insecure areas, especially where there have been robberies and shootings, defense and communication teams are not protected at all,” according to Hulute.
He said that UNICEF is asking “the groups in power to give unlimited access to the groups, because that is what allows people to get the oral contraceptive drops.”
In 2010, the first cholera epidemic broke out in Haiti after United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal brought the disease. Over the next ten years, cholera killed more than 10,000 people.
Today, the Haitian people are painfully aware of the dangers of cholera, but the political, economic and security situation severely hampers public health efforts.
Although the epidemic has not yet exploded like in 2010, it has hit “all parts of the world,” with the crisis situation “creating a way out,” said Tristan Rousset of the Pan American Health Organization.