I pretty much gave up on covering cholera in Haiti a year or two ago. The Ministry of Pubic Health and Population (MSPP) had fallen hopelessly behind on its daily cholera reports. The local online media were patchy in their reporting, and the international media had lost interest after a couple of years of endless bad news.
Don't get me going about WHO's western-hemisphere branch plant, PAHO. With the UN obviously the original importer of cholera through its hired Nepali "peacekeepers," UN health agencies have been shamefully quiet about their complicity for five long years and counting.
In terms of net grief, Haiti has likely suffered more from cholera than West Africa from Ebola: according to MSPP's latest report, dated October 30, over 750,000 Haitians have contracted cholera since the outbreak began five years ago, and over 9,000 have died of it. This out of a population of about ten million. But WHO takes flak for its slow response to West African Ebola, not for its responsibility for Haitian cholera.
I first got a sense of the problem of covering disasters in poor countries when Haiti's earthquake hit in early 2010. I couldn't find news sources, bloggers, anyone inside Haiti but a few folks working for NGOs. My second effort when cholera broke out in October 2010 turned up a few more such sources, but not many.
That taught me something: When a disease breaks out in a poor country, and international intervention is needed, whether from governments or NGOs, part of the aid should be to provide the people and technology to create a first-rate web presence for the country's ministry of health, in as many languages as needed. The failure of the MSPP to inform its own people and the world about cholera only ensured that it would be ignored almost everywhere.
This happened in Haiti, and again in West Africa. Liberia managed to improve its online Ebola coverage, and Sierra Leone overhauled its ministry website rather well. Guinea, last time I checked, still had no online site at all (and it's still lagging in eradicating cases). No West African ministry, nor the Haitian MSPP, has ever offered serious analysis of the outbreak it's dealing with. Like the Saudis with MERS, it's mostly silence or spin.
Nevertheless, a few amazing people like Dr. John Carroll have stayed in Haiti, doing more good than they will ever be recognized for (least of all by the global-health bureaucrats they keep off the hook). And the Haitians themselves carry on, with more determination and courage than most of us could muster in such conditions.
If only to respect and honour the Haitian people, I'll keep trying to cover their struggle with cholera. I'd be grateful for any help you can offer.