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Cholera outbreak spreads to Haiti capital

Languishing tent cities under threat as earthquake-ravaged Haiti faces new peril.

In recent weeks, human rights groups such as Refugees International have decried the condition of the camps, claiming that 70 percent of them are unmanaged because of a lack of coordination between the United Nations and other international humanitarian agencies.

Government officials now believe that the source of the outbreak is the Artibonite River, which runs across the middle of Haiti from the Dominican Republic into the Gulf of Gonave. Heavy rains in past weeks may have flooded the river with sewage, but it is not known why the bacterium has affected the country now after being nonexistent for so many decades.

“The awful thing about the outbreak is that it’s a total coincidence,” Wall said about the outbreak following so closely after the earthquake. “Cholera is not present across the Caribbean … But because of the earthquake response we have the supplies we need in country and the medical staff.”

Even as suspected cases appear to be spreading nationally, there is a faint sign of hope that the fatality rate in Artibonite may be dropping.

“The first couple of days was very high, about 9 percent,” said Munz. “Now it seems to be about 5 percent. The goal is to get it down to one and then have no new cases. It’s a question of time and our vigilance.”