Cholera epidemic puts 200,000 at risk in Haiti

Up to 200,000 Haitians could contract cholera as the epidemic which has already killed 800 spreads across the battered Caribbean nation of nearly 10 million, the United Nations warned yesterday.

That would be double the 100,000 cases during a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe between August 2008 and July 2009, which killed 4,287 people. The UN's forecast in Haiti was based partly on the Zimbabwe toll.

A UN strategy plan said Haiti needs $163.9m in aid over the next year to combat the epidemic, the first cholera outbreak in the country in a century. Cholera could also spread to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, it said.

"The strategy anticipates a total of up to 200,000 people to show symptoms of cholera ranging from cases of mild diarrhoea to the most severe dehydration," said Elisabeth Byrs of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "Cases are expected to appear in a burst of epidemics that will happen suddenly in different parts of the country."

The death toll rose to 800 on Thursday and at least 11,125 patients have been admitted to hospital since the outbreak began more than three weeks ago. "The death rate isn't increasing but it is still much higher than usual, 6 to 7 per cent. It should be much lower," said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation.