This looks bad (warning: this footage includes images of dead people).
After Limbe, where cholera has killed at least 100 people, we came to the biggest “barikad” yet in the highway. Thick trees lay across the road and hundreds of people, a few holding machetes, blocked the way.
The bus driver once again descended to negotiate, but didn’t appear to be making any progress. Most passengers grabbed their belongings and got out.
I decided to go too. As I gathered my things, there was a debate among the remaining passengers:
“He’s a blan (foreigner), he’s going to get hurt.”
“No no no, he speaks Creole, he’ll be fine.”
“They’re going to think he’s MINUSTAH. They’re not logical.”
MINUSTAH is the acronym for the UN peacekeeping mission. As I stepped off the bus, people standing at the road called me over and urged me not to go. It was the third day of so-called “cholera riots” against foreign troops blamed for introducing the disease into the country.
Someone said the protesters are violent “chimere,” a word for political gangs. I explained that it’s my job as a journalist to go talk to them.
Then two Haitian journalists who were on the bus pushed their way through the crowd and wrapped their arms around me. Everyone agreed, finally, that together with the two guys I could get through the barricades.
Some Haitians are blaming the UN for the cholera outbreak (which has killed over 1,000 people so far—that we know of). Reporters aren't sure whether this is being organized by political parties and gangs simply to destabilize the political system or whether this is somehow based on a genuine mass delusion. (My brain is not prepared to accept the possibility that the UN intentionally tried to poison the entire nation of Haiti—though it is true that Europeans introduced cholera to the New World. But that was an accident.)
The first Haiti-related cholera case has now been reported in Florida.
And if any of you out there are thinking of going to the Dominican Republic—or know people who are going to the Dominican Republic—don't worry:
But he [Dr. Jordan Tappero, team leader in Haiti for the CDC in Port-au-Prince] said cholera was unlikely to spread widely in the United States or in the Dominican Republic, since both countries have public health infrastructures — i.e., chlorinated drinking water and intact sewage lines — that are more robust than those in Haiti.
In addition, health officials in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, have been watching the epidemic spread across Haiti for several weeks, during which they have been preparing by putting into place a surveillance system and educating the populace about what to do if they should come down with symptoms, he said.
Everything's gonna be just fine. Unless you're in Haiti.