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UN steps up efforts to contain cholera outbreak in Haiti

As of Wednesday, the Haitian health ministry has confirmed 4,649 hospitalizations and 305 deaths due to cholera, with cases having been confirmed in three of the country’s 10 departments – Artibonite, Central and North.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that it is working with local authorities to bury the bodies of those who suffered from cholera as safely as possible.The Office reported today that nearly two thirds of communities at the epicentre of the outbreak have received water purification tablets and supplies in the past five days.OCHA spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva that it is still a priority to provide treatment centres with supplies to treat cholera patients, support the health ministry in its public information campaign, disseminate water purification tablets and rehydration salts on a large scale, and ensure that there are enough medical experts in the Artibonite region.The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), together with its Government and relief partners, continues to increase education and information campaigns, contingency planning and cholera prevention activities in camps for those uprooted by January’s catastrophic earthquake in parts of Haiti, especially the hardest-hit city and capital, Port-au-Prince.In the past few days, UNICEF has reached tens of thousands of children in and around the camps with messages on the need for hygiene safety. The agency is working on an emergency plan for Port-au-Prince which would also include setting up treatment centres in the city.The health ministry, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and others are continuing to transport urgently-needed medical supplies and personnel to treat cases.WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood said the agency has distributed more than 64,000 oral rehydration salt sachets, enough to treat 20,000 moderate cholera cases, as well as enough intravenous fluids to treat 3,500 severe cases.He said that the agency fears that even more cases could be reported, underscoring that intensive measures are ongoing to inform people about health issues and to urge people exhibiting symptoms to seek medical care as quickly as possible.For its part, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing ready-to-eat meals and dry rations to hospitals, and has also procured 20 metric tons of soap for hygiene trainings in schools in affected areas as part of its school feeding programme. 29 October 2010With the number of confirmed cholera deaths climbing in Haiti, the United Nations and its partners continue to enhance their operations to contain the outbreak, deploying medicines and medical experts to the impoverished Caribbean nation.

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