(CNN) — As Haiti’s number of Covid-19 cases rises into the thousands, international agencies are sounding the alarm — and so are some human rights activists.
On Wednesday, Haiti’s Health Ministry reported at least 3,662 confirmed cases and 56 deaths from the virus but humanitarian groups fear the number is far higher, due to a lack of testing.
“There are currently only two laboratories in the country able to process COVID-19 tests,” the international relief agency Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) said in a statement Thursday, warning ” the issue of testing is increasingly becoming an important challenge to control the spread of the disease and provide adequate and timely care to those who test positive.”
The group said Haiti faced unique challenges when it comes to containing the virus, namely, the difficulty of following social distancing measures and importing cases from neighboring countries.
“It has been impossible for most people to follow the measures, particularly those who live in the densely populated slums of the capital, where the highest number of cases have been reported,” MSF said, adding that among the numerous challenges is also “the ongoing return of thousands of Haitian migrants from the neighboring Dominican Republic, which has the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Caribbean, with more than 17,000 registered cases.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also expressed worry. “We are very concerned about Haiti at the moment because of its unique circumstances, unique fragility and the fact that the disease is accelerating in a highly vulnerable population,” WHO’s Executive Director for Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, said during a press conference last week.
His remarks came after the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned the spread of coronavirus in Haiti could result in widespread famine.
“What has been common to many regions has been intense community transmission and it is clear that once community transmission has been established it’s very difficult to root the virus out,” WHO Director Ryan added.
Meanwhile, the government’s inconsistent response to the pandemic has raised questions.
The country was put on lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 on March 19. However, a month later, the government of President Jovenel Moïse ordered businesses to resume production of manufactured goods, a key component of the country’s export economy.
Then on May 21 as infections rose, Moïse announced sweeping new measures to prevent the spread of the virus. These prohibited any public gathering of more than five people, adding that those in violation would be fined 3,000 Haitian Gourdes (about $27) or possibly face a five-day prison sentence or a 15 days of community service. In addition, the president announced a curfew between 8pm and 5am daily. Continue reading