Haitians are reeling from an ongoing cholera outbreak that began in October about 60 miles north of the capital of Port-au-Prince and has already killed at least 300 people. More than 4,000 cases have been reported so far. Cholera is caused by a bacterial infection of the intestine, which can enter the body through unclean drinking water or contaminated food. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of cholera include diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. A rapid loss of body fluids can lead to dehydration and shock. “Without treatment, death can occur within hours,” the CDC has said. The disease kills about 120,000 people a year, according to the World Health Organization.
During epidemics, infections can spread rapidly in areas where there is poor sewage treatment and a lack of clean drinking water. The cause of the Haiti epidemic is suspected to be the Artibonite River, from which several patients have admitted drinking. There are fears that the disease could spread quickly since many people still live in refugee camps with poor sanitary conditions as a result of the January 2010 earthquake. Although medical treatment is saving the lives of 90 percent of those people who get to a clinic, many Haitians have been unable to receive treatment due to overcrowding in hospitals.
International health officials are focusing on preventing the spread of cholera by educating the public on hand-washing and drinking only clean water. Medical supplies and health professionals are arriving from around the world, raising hopes that the situation can be stabilized.
- Amid Cholera Outbreak in Haiti, Misery and Hope
This article from the New York Times covers the progress of cholera treatment in Haiti and of medical aid to the stricken Caribbean country.
(Source: New York Times, October 25, 2010)
- At Cholera Epicenter, Chaos, but Signs of Control
This report from NPR explains the efforts to treat Haitians affected by the cholera outbreak and to prevent its spread to other parts of the country.
(Source: NPR, October 28, 2010)
- World Health Organization: Cholera in Haiti
The Web site of the WHO documents the thousands of cases of cholera in Haiti and the treatment and prevention efforts.
(Source: WHO, October 26, 2010)
Other Issues in the Region
Latin America has abundant resources, but a small percentage of the people have benefited most from those resources. According to the World Bank, the richest 10 percent of the population of Central and South America and the Caribbean earn 48 percent of the region’s income. The poorest 10 percent earn only 1.6 percent. Attitudes about race and ethnicity are one reason for the widespread inequality in Latin America. Indigenous peoples and Latin Americans of African descent have fewer educational and job opportunities than whites. High-quality public services, such as health care, water, electricity, and sewage, are unequally divided according to race and socioeconomic status. The World Bank found that unequal distribution of resources hinders development and can be traced to patterns set up during European colonization. Solving the problem will require wise leadership, participatory democracy, and changes in social and political institutions to bring about reform.
- Prudent Chile Thrives Amid Downturn
The economies of developing nations around the world, including in Latin America, have been hurt by the global recession of 2008–09. Thanks to careful management of windfall profits in its copper industry, Chile has been able to weather the storm.
(Source: Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2009)
Giving Citizens a Voice
On September 11, 2001, the same day that terrorists attacked the United States, members of the Organization of American States (OAS), were meeting in Lima, Peru, to demonstrate their commitment to democracy. Among them were Canada, the United States, Mexico, and countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. They signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The first article of the charter states, “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. Democracy is essential for the social, political, and economic development of the peoples of the Americas.”
The charter spells out basic elements of a representative democracy. It emphasizes the importance of human rights and urges the participation of all citizens. It calls for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and addresses the need to eliminate poverty and illiteracy. Economic development and education are stressed as important factors in strengthening the democratic process.
- Secretary General Highlights OAS Efforts for Democracy and Reconstruction in Haiti
José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, recommitted the OAS to work to strengthen the institutions of democracy in Haiti, the Caribbean island country that was devastated by an earthquake in January 2010. Insulza addressed the “World Summit on the Future of Haiti: Solidarity beyond the Crisis.”
(Source: Caribbean Net News, June 3, 2010)
Rain Forest Resources
Brazil’s rainforest covers a majority of the country’s land. The forest is said to contain 30 percent of Earth’s plant and animal species, and the oxygen produced by its plant life has given the region the nickname “the lungs of the world.” But Brazil’s growing population and expanding economy, particularly its agricultural economy, are putting new demands on the rainforests. Brazil’s government is struggling to find a balance between rainforest preservation and economic growth.
- Amazon Deforestation in Dramatic Decline, Official Figures Show
Increased use of satellite data to spot the felling of trees and new tactics to deter loggers, such as preventing their ability to hide under cloud cover, have led to a decline in large-scale deforestation, according to Ibama, Brazil’s environmental agency.
(Source: The Guardian, July 23, 2010)