By Judge Greg Mathis –
Shortly after the New Year began, Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left more than one million homeless. The promise of help came from around the world: individuals donated what they could and richer nations, including our own, pledged millions of dollars in support.
Unfortunately, a significant number of those commitments have not been met. As the anniversary of the earthquake approaches, Haiti is still a broken country. To make matters worse, the tiny nation is battling a disease outbreak that, under better conditions, would be simple to treat.
Cases of cholera began popping up in rural Haiti in early October. Cholera is a disease that causes intestinal distress in its victims: vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. These symptoms can lead to dehydration; if not treated, an infected person could die. And, that’s just what’s been happening in Haiti. To date, there have been more than 3,000 cases of the disease and more than 250 deaths.
Cholera is primarily spread through contaminated drinking water. In wealthier countries, water is treated and the bacteria that cause the disease are killed.
Haiti hasn’t had a cholera outbreak in more than 100 years; medical professionals are unsure of what brought this on. One thing is for certain: the nation’s medical system was weakened by the quake and health officials are having a hard time battling the disease.
With experts worried that the disease may soon spread to nearby Dominican Republic, it’s critical that the international pledged community makes good on its promises of support to Haiti.
Current funding for Haiti should be redirected and used to build filtration centers, so that individuals there are guaranteed clean drinking water. Additionally, money should be spent on cholera vaccines and medical outreach so that those who have not been infected don’t get infected.
While it’s important any nation in a position to do so help Haiti get back on its feet – and put the country in a position to prosper - the immediate focus should not be on rebuilding infrastruc- ture, but on preserving life.