Death Toll From Cholera in Haiti Reaches 900

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The Telegraph/UK

Death Toll From Cholera in Haiti Reaches 900

Haiti's cholera toll has risen to more than 900, as the outbreak showed no sign of abating just two weeks ahead of presidential elections.

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A relative of a child who died of cholera mourns during her burial at the cemetery in the slum of Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday Nov. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Health Ministry officials reported more than 120 new deaths since the previous toll, as authorities and international aid agencies struggled to contain the latest crisis afflicting the desperately poor Caribbean nation.

Nearly one month after cholera took hold, the confirmed fatalities rose to 917, up from Friday's 796 recorded deaths.

The recent increase in fatalities has been steady and not a spike, but it nonetheless highlights the difficulties of tamping down an outbreak in a country desperate for better infrastructure and health services.

As concerns rise over massive health challenges in the aftermath of the country's cataclysmic earthquake almost a year ago, Haiti confronts the hardening prospect of national elections two weeks from now in the midst of a series of disasters.

Of Haiti's 10 provinces, six now have been touched by the cholera epidemic according to the health ministry, which said 14,642 people so far have been treated in hospital, about 2,300 more than on Friday.

At least 27 of the deaths were recorded in the teeming capital Port-au-Prince, including its largest slum Cite Soleil and its suburbs.

Most of those treated already have been released, but a wave of new infections is swamping understaffed and ill-prepared hospitals and clinics across the country.

Officials fear the scale of the epidemic could increase exponentially if cholera infiltrates makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince where hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors live in cramped and unsanitary conditions.

Mirlande Manigat, the candidate who leads in polls ahead of the vote to succeed outgoing President Rene Preval, said it would be "unreasonable" for officials to postpone the election despite the crises.

"The general situation is not favourable for elections, because of the earthquake, health problems, cholera (and) hurricanes" among the pressing crises facing the country, she said.

But "we are now at a point when we cannot step back" from the election, "because there is a momentum within the population," the former first lady and longtime opposition leader said.

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