By October 26 the toll was 295 deaths, up 36 from the 259 WHO reported the day before. Experts were already predicting that cholera would become endemic in Haiti. They were also hoping to keep it out of Port-au-Prince.
And on October 27, Jonathan Katz was already reporting on the possibility that newly arrived Nepalese peacekeepers had imported the disease. I was able to back up his speculation by linking to a news report I'd blogged in September on a cholera outbreak in Kathmandu.
Three years later, the cholera statistics for October 17 show 684,085 cases and 8,361 cases...likely a severe undercount, though it's quite a jump in deaths since October 10, when 8,330 deaths were reported. (For some reason the October 10 report disappeared after I posted it on October 13.)
If stress reveals character, then three years of cholera has revealed a great deal about all involved in this sorry mess.
In the early days, American kids in various NGOs were merrily blogging and tweeting about all the good things they were doing. Then the money ran out and they vanished.
The Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) made an effort to produce something like reliable numbers, relying on a chaotic network of local offices in the departments. But the numbers were always slow and usually incomplete, with unexplained changes in the death counts and several departments usually failing to report. The minister in 2010 said absolutely nothing in public, and his successors have been almost as anonymous. They have certainly not been advocates for their own people.
The Haitian media have scarcely covered the outbreak, which has now sickened about 7 percent of the population. Imagine that happening in the US if, say, 22 million Americans had fallen ill from cholera in the past three years.
The international media, meanwhile, lost interest after the few unpleasant months. It was one thing to crank out a few Poor Haiti stories, which have been a staple of the American media since the days of the US Marine occupation almost a century ago. But it was another to deal day after day with the deaths of poor black people whose country is of little strategic or even economic interest.
The UN, as the demonstrated importer of cholera, has revealed the most by admitting the least. Its MINUSTAH force amounts to an international brigade of mercenaries, "peacekeeping" in a country at war with no one. Its purpose is to keep the Haitians from running their own country in a manner that the US might find inconvenient.
By failing to admit responsibility, the UN revealed itself as a morally bankrupt organization, and while it is currently being sued for its culpability, I will be astounded if it's found guilty, and thunderstruck if it actually coughs up as much as 50 cents in reparations to its victims.
Worse yet, the Pan American Health Organization, as the branch plant of the World Health Organization, has been effectively muzzled despite its longtime involvement in Haitian public health. PAHO and WHO are UN agencies. However assiduously they may report on yellow fever in Sudan or H7N9 in China, Haiti put their staff in a medical-ethics crisis that they have shamefully failed.
In this they resemble the Cubans, who made some good propaganda out of their heroic efforts to help Haiti after the earthquake and especially after cholera broke out. When cholera followed the Cubans home, they fell awkwardly silent. A Cuban dissident who reported on the early Cuban cases was then thrown in jail for months after being arrested—for investigating the theft of WHO medical supplies.
If anyone has revealed real character in the past three years, it's the Haitians themselves. They have endured the earthquake and then cholera with a courage that shames their so-called benefactors, not to mention the few of us outsiders still paying attention.
In three years, cholera has moved from Kathmandu to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and then to Cuba, and now to Mexico. Hundreds of thousands have been sickened, and roughly 9,000 have died, and it's not going to stop.
Cholera in Haiti is a painfully good example of Rudolf Virchow's definition of politics as the practice of medicine on a large scale.