I mentioned cholera in my post yesterday. This epidemic, while not as much in the news as when it began just over a year ago, continues to rage. Read this blog almost any day and you'll find references to people dying of cholera. Paul Farmer, who is the UN's deputy Special Envoy to Haiti and a doctor himself, says that this outbreak is now the worst in the world and close to being the number one cause of death by infectious disease in Haiti. Nearly five percent of the population of Haiti have contracted cholera and more than six thousand people have died.
Cholera is easy to prevent; just wash your hands, with clean water and soap. But wait. What if you don't have access to clean water? Then what? This is why cholera is a disease of emergencies and natural disasters, times when clean water supply is disrupted. It's also a disease of poverty. I'm not worried about getting cholera because I have clean water to wash with. If I do get sick, I have access to health care. But for many people in this country, clean water and health care are both unattainable.
Read these five prevention messages, and they seem simple. Use safe water, wash your hands, use latrines, cook food well and peel raw food, clean up safely. And then read them again, imagining that you live in a tent, with no reliable source of clean water. Boiling water requires fuel, which costs a lot of money. Most people don't have jobs. Now you can see some of the challenges.
I was very struck by this interview given by photographer Ben Depp. He talks about some horrifying pictures he took of a dying cholera patient. He also talks about his own recovery from the trauma of the earthquake and how he deals with taking pictures in Haiti. Read all the way through to the last paragraph; Ben's words still have me pondering.
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