Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Haiti searches for clean water solutions

From Edvige Jean-Francois, CNN
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Haiti still recovering from cholera epidemic that left 8,000 dead
  • Hospital is training doctors to prepare for new outbreak
  • Poor water and sanitation infrastructure mean Haiti is still at risk

Vital Signs is a monthly program bringing viewers health stories from around the world.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- In January 2010 a seven-point magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, killing more than 250,000 people and damaging its infrastructure, including some water systems.

Even before the quake, Haiti's water systems were fragile, and just months after the quake the country was hit with a devastating cholera outbreak -- the first in nearly a century. By the time the outbreak subsided, more than 8,000 people had died and hundreds of thousands more had become sick.

Haiti's clean water crisis
Clean water solutions for Haiti

Independent studies suggest the outbreak was caused by U.N. peacekeepers who improperly disposed of fecal matter that ended up in Haiti's Artibonite River, a main tributary, where people bathe. In its own report, the U.N. concluded that the outbreak was "the result of bacteria introduced into Haiti as a result of human activity" -- but the organization says water and sanitation and healthcare system deficiencies allowed the bacteria to spread.

"A cholera patient excretes the cholera bacteria in huge numbers and, if that excreta gets into the water or the food supply and other people consume it, they too will become ill and they'll amplify that by contaminating more water and more food," explains Dr. Eric Mintz, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta. "That's where you see these incredibly rapid epidemics of cholera, and that tells you that the water is unsafe."

Today, Haiti's Mirebalais University Hospital is training new doctors for another cholera outbreak.

"That could happen again, particularly in parts of the country where people have not had a lot of cholera," says Mintz. "They may not have the experience to recognize it. They may not know what to do in terms of treatment. We certainly can't stop now and declare victory."

Watch the video above to find out more.

Read: Man cuts off fingers, makes new ones

Read: Artificial eyes, plastic skulls: 3-D printing the human body

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 1002 GMT (1802 HKT)
A device for extracting water from air is being used by the military -- could it help developing countries too?
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0931 GMT (1731 HKT)
Air-cleaning pavillion to be launched at the 2015 Milan Expo
Air pollution is now the biggest global environmental killer, but these high-tech solutions could save lives.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1954 GMT (0354 HKT)
robohand metal hand
A South African carpenter lost his fingers in an accident -- now he's making mechanical fingers and hands for others.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Connie Culp was injured when her husband shot her in 2004. She underwent a near-total face transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in 2008 -- the first operation of its kind in the United States
As face transplants become more common, hospitals may soon be asking: Will you donate your face?
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT)
TB is growing increasingly drug resistant -- and it's becoming a global problem.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
A 10-year-old inventor and a 20-year-old MD? Meet the whiz kids changing the face of medicine.
May 9, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A Southern Sudanese man uses a pipe filter to protect himself from Guinea worm disease while drinking water from a potentially infected source. The pipe filter strains out the water fleas that can contain Guinea worm larvae.
Guinea worm disease once infected millions -- now it's almost eradicated. But can we catch the final cases?
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
A staff member from the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan, a non-profit organisation based in Taipei, points at the part of a horseshoe crab where blood is drawn for use in laboratory tests against animals, during a press conference in Taipei on December 4, 2012.
Hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs are captured each year for their incredible blue blood. Here's why.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Lika Rose Caticon, 7, who is suffering from Typhoid fever, holds a doll as she lies in a makeshift cot at the overcrowded JP Rizal Memorial District Hospital in Calamba City south of the Philippine capital Manila on March 5, 2008.
As we travel ever further afield, which infectious diseases do you need to know about?
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
3d printed eye
Scientists are bioprinting human body parts from ears to bones. Here are some the most impressive advances.
May 16, 2014 -- Updated 0932 GMT (1732 HKT)
care o bot
Robot carers are helping elderly people, watching their health and keeping them company.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
A woman fills in a glass of water on April 27, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE
Half the world is facing water shortages, so is it time for us all to start drinking recycled sewage?
vital signs logo
Vital Signs is a monthly program bringing viewers health stories from around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT