From Reuters Alert Net comes this first-hand account of the suffering that the cholera outbreak is unleashing. Writer David Darg works for Operation Blessing.
We arrived at St Marc hospital to a horror scene. I had to fight my way through the gate as a huge crowd of worried relatives stood outside, while others screamed for access as they carried dying relatives into the compound. The courtyard was lined with patients hooked up to intravenous (IV) drips. It had just rained and there were people lying on the ground on soggy sheets, half-soaked with feces.
Some children were screaming and writhing in agony, others were motionless with their eyes rolled back into their heads as doctors and nursing staff searched desperately for a vein to give them an IV. The hospital was overwhelmed, apparently caught out suddenly by one of the fastest killers there is.
Our friend, Cate Oswald, from Partners In Health came out from a triage tent clutching a hand-drawn map. It showed the local river and the names of a few communities where the patients had been coming from. Cate and some of her colleagues led us into the countryside to find the source of the epidemic.
We arrived at the place where many of the patients had originated from, a small dusty community called Babou La Port. Our team set up a water purification system, which filters and chlorinates, ensuring that any bacteria or diseases are killed.
As we worked, sick villagers of all ages congregated under the shade of some large trees. The medical staff placed IVs in some. One, a boy named Frantz, was brought to us by his grandmother. He was weak and vomiting. His grandmother was frail and could only point to the river when we asked her how long Frantz had been ill.
Diarrhea is unfortunately a common problem in this part of the world. A villager with cholera might lie down on feeling ill, expecting to get better, and be dead within hours.