The word “cholera” has an antiquated ring to it, like “leprosy” or “smallpox.” These are all diseases that we’d like to think are part of the past, eliminated by superior science and modern hygiene, and relegated to the history books.
In Haiti, cholera is the present, the latest disaster to befall the island nation since the January 12 earthquake that devastated its infrastructure and killed an estimated 300,000 people.
Tens of thousands are still living in close quarters in tent camps with primitive sanitation, the perfect places for cholera to take hold. As of Saturday, 200 were dead; 2,000 more were sick, and the disease was closing in on the capital of Port-au-Prince, where millions are at risk.
Cholera is extremely contagious, spreading through contaminated water and by exposure to the bodily fluids of the infected, killing by dehydration. Those who are malnourished or who have weakened immune systems, along with the very young and the very old, are most susceptible.
Despite all the pledges of Haiti’s government and other nations, including the United States, aid has been slow to arrive. Private charities are doing what they can, but the need far outstrips the available supplies.
Episcopal Relief & Development has been active in Haiti for many years, and now is devoting most of its resources in the region to helping those affected by the earthquake. The people of Haiti need our prayers; they also need our material assistance. If you can help, there’s no time like the present to do so.
– Sarah Bryan Miller