Cholera Strikes Haiti (photos)

To date, NGOs have kept Haiti’s cholera epidemic under control in and around Port-au-Prince. But how long can it be contained? Julie Dermansky investigates


In the aftermath of last January’s terrible earthquake, the fear that Haiti would become riddled with disease has become a reality. Despite stabilizing new infections in a handful of clinics, cholera is killing people every day. Though the elections have taken the spotlight off public welfare, the disease remains Haiti’s biggest threat.

Cholera cases in and around Port-au-Prince have stabilized in clinics I visited run by Doctors Without Borders, Samaritan’s Purse and the Real Hope for Haiti Clinic. The decrease in new cases is due to education, which is a positive sign. Patients are being taken to clinics sooner, which saves lives and makes cholera easier to treat.

New cases are expected to rise around the holidays, since cholera is a socially transmitted disease. Empty beds are being made ready now in anticipation of a spike. Patients often arrive in a coma, caused by a rapid loss of fluids and electrolytes. They come to the clinics by wheelbarrow, tap-taps (pickup trucks converted into public transportation) or carried by friends, family and neighbors on stretchers, beds and sometimes doors. Often, there are multiple infections within families.

Workers for the Haitian Ministry of Public Health go out on calls to remove cholera victims. Bodies are taken by truck to a mass grave in Titmayn. The site is near the mass graves of earthquake victims who were buried in January. The Haitian government estimates that cholera has claimed the lives of more than 2,200 people so far.

You can help alleviate this crisis by visiting the sites below and making a donation:

Editor’s Note: Julie Dermansky is an an Affiliate Scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. A recipient of an NEA award, she is also a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Her work has been shown in galleries and museums in America and Europe. To view more of her work, go to; for more on epidemic, check out her photo essay on the Atlantic Monthly

8 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Part of the relief money sent to Haiti after the earthquake should have been set aside for disease control. I suspect that a chunk of it was used to enrich local officials. It is heartbreaking to see people dying of cholera for the lack of medical help or the lack of transport to get to a medical facility. Those interested in helping can click on the website of Doctors Without Borders and make a contribution that will go directly to help with this crisis.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Very little of the money raised has been sent and the “excuse” is that the government of Haiti will merely use it to enrich itself as you put it.  It is a valid point.  But we should look at the corruption of our own government which in many cases is what actually enables the corruption of other governments. And we should also ask why the money has not been given to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Red Cross. 

      At the time I suggested people donate directly to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Red Cross that were already in Haiti but the majority instead gave to organizations like the American Red Cross, which has kept part of the money for itself here in the United States, and to the Bush and Clinton Fund which not only has disbursed very little of the money but feels it is above any accountability to anyone in terms of accounting for the money that was raised although the same may be said about many of the “celebrity” funds as well.  People don’t ask about it let alone get outraged about it because in the end people really don’t care. They write the check and feel they’ve done their part and then forget it.  I call it the United Way Syndrome. Although it’s not restricted to United Way.  Even when people find out their checks go to pay million dollar salaries for people who would never make that level of salary in the private sector they really don’t care. They write the checks, they’ve done their part. And really don’t care that much of the money they’ve given to help people isn’t used to provide the help it was intended to but instead has been used to enrich executive directors and other executive staff members and in many cases board members who profit from contracts and investments.

      Perhaps the reason why our government is corrupt is that we are as well?

      • avatar Chris Glass` says:

        I stopped giving to the Red Cross when they charged me for juice after donating blood. I too am against the high salaries as well as how much overhead they have as a charitable organization. I do the majority of my giving to local groups that utilize most of the donations for those in need. I make an exception for certain groups such as Doctors Without Borders.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          Unless they’ve changed it the IRS only requires 5% of income be spent on direct contribution to the community relative to the stated purpose of the organization. The standard seems to be 50% for most of the “acceptable ratings” that various philanthropic “wtachdog” groups put out.   So half of every dollar goes to something else.  Many organizations spend fortunes “entertaining” in order to raise funds. And the “net” amount is always much less than the publicized amount because of the “entertaining.” And of course the salaries. As I recall that is the number one complaint taken to consumer protection divisions in the state attorney general’s offices. As long as the organization meets the IRS requirements the sky’s the limit for salaries.  Many organizations “cook the books” to hide the salaries by lumping them all together. The 990s tell very little about what really goes where.  Some organizations will break the salaries down and disclose.  Many won’t.  And of course the boards of directors. Those are supposed to be disclosed. With some organizations you have to literally file a
          freedom of information act request.  Many have “advisory boards” that don’t have to be disclosed and those boards are often where the conflicts-of-interest are to be found. 

          Regrant organizations are the worst simply because they spend inordinate amounts of money on “administrative costs” which means less money for the organizations they fund.  United Way has always been at the top of my list of regrant organizations I will not give to.  Show me where these million dollar a year executive directors were making a million dollars in the private sector and I will donate.  Many are just friends of a board member.  That of course another problem particularly with regard to many community organizations.  The founders who become the executive directors and choose their own boards and set their own salaries which their board then approves.  Those are the organizations that usually do end up being sued by attorney generals offices. 

          We should have learned from Katrina.  Maybe we will learn from Haiti.  Ask questions before you write the check.  In the case of Haiti the only question that should have been asked was whether the organization was already in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.  Why was that important? Because the organizations already there were already dealing with the corrupt government and knew how to work around the corrupt government in order to provide the needed services. 

          What makes me very angry about the Bush-Clinton fund, and all of the funds which are regrant funds operating through regrant organizations,  is that no one asks questions. No one asks what went where.  Or if it even did. 

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Until the people elect a government the Bushes and Clintons like the Bushes and Clintons aren’t going to part with the hundreds of millions of dollars they raised to help the people of Haiti.  Since the people can’t elect any government it seems, well, perhaps they should rise up and overthrow the government the Bushes and Clintons don’t like. That is the reality of Haiti. And of the United States.  Of course once there is a government the Bushes and the Clintons like, the emphasis will be on contracts to drill for oil and natural gas off the coast of Haiti rather than rebuilding Haiti although some would say it’s more a matter of building Haiti finally.

    I suppose next they will send Barbara Bush down for a “photo-op” who will announce that it’s actually working out quite well for the people.  After all, many have never seen a doctor before. Or bottled water.

    Fortunately the various organizations knew that cholera was a threat immediately after the earthquake and were prepared to deal with it on their own.  They are the reason why many will survive this. Not our government.  Cetainly not the Bushes and the Clintons.

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    And today as reported elsewhere Lauren Bush has committed the funds from her Feed Project to the children of Haiti.  The schoolchildren of Haiti. The ones who have a school to go to I suppose. One does wonder, again, where the hundreds of millions of dollars her uncle raised for Haiti have gone. And where the thousands of dollars she has raised will go. Sorry but there really is this disconnect, an appalling one, about the reality of Haiti. 

  4. avatar macwoof woof says:

    would like to see an article on where the money went/goes.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Maybe Julian Assange can hack their databases. That is probably the only way you will find out what went where and what hasn’t gone anywhere.

      On a note of donating the money directly to help in crises we are seeing a major crisis around the country at food pantries which few realize have to buy the food from food banks.
      You spend $10 on a sack of groceries and drop it in the red barrel and it is taken to the food bank and the food pantry buys it for an average of $5.  Most if not all food pantries around the country simply do not have the funds to serve everyone this Christmas season and so at least for Christmas everyone should take the time to either run a check by their nearest food pantry or even better take the sack of groceries directly to the food pantry or even better yet call and see what they need most and buy $10 worth of that.  In some areas of the country, the $10 will buy 20 cans of tuna, 60 packages of Ramen noodles, 15 packages of regular noodles, 20 cans of soup. 

      By donating directly you are doubling what the food pantry has to give to individuals and families in need.