This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Wadsworth Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 11th (copyright 2012, although it actually came out in 2011), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news. Note that the 12th edition is currently in production and will be out in 2015.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Cholera Refuses to Leave Haiti

I reported months ago on the outbreak of cholera in Haiti that followed the devastating earthquake there early in 2010. The evidence at the time was that Asian peacekeepers had brought the disease with them and this has now been corroborated, if not exactly confirmed, by a newly released UN report. At this point, it scarcely matters where it came from--it has descended heavily upon the Haitians, killing nearly 5,000 people and sickening 300,000. An editorial in today's New York Times attempts to draw attention back to the plight of Haiti, which has struggled to recover.

The fact that the disease is still spreading is a reminder of how much more help Haiti needs and the consequences of continued neglect.
Technically, the challenge of containing the epidemic is simple enough. Haitians need clean water for drinking and washing. They need soap and bleach and access to medical care for rehydration when they fall ill. They need safe ways to dispose of sewage and shelter for when the rains worsen and cause streets and rivers to flood and cholera cases to spike.
For too many, the ingredients of tragedy remain stubbornly in place. Even as relief agencies are winding down their presence in Haiti, about 680,000 people are still living in camps and waiting for permanent shelter. Life in this setting is precarious, without adequate access to latrines and safe drinking water.
This is a reminder that some populations have considerably more resilience to rebound from a disaster like this than do other populations. Decades of rapid population growth in Haiti helped to create an almost desperately poor and vulnerable population, and it is difficult to see what the future may hold for the country. 

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