The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

A Country Ravaged by Cholera and Capitalism

Nov 22, 2010

On November 15, clashes took place between the population, the police and soldiers from the United Nations in several Haitian cities. At least two people were killed and several others injured.

The Haitian population suspects that the cholera epidemic was brought by the soldiers from Nepal who arrived in Haiti on October 15. The first case of cholera, a disease that had disappeared in Haiti over a century ago, reappeared five days later. The particular strain of the disease in Haiti is also known to exist in Nepal. In addition, the epidemic in Haiti began along the Artibonite River, near a garrison of United Nations troops including Nepalese soldiers.

Haitians are fed up with being victimized by the carelessness of the ruling classes that this cholera epidemic demonstrates. It has already killed more than a thousand people and sickened some 14,000 more.

The following translation comes from La Voix des Travailleurs (Workers Voice), a monthly newspaper written by militants of the Organization of Revolutionary Workers in Haiti.

The number of cholera deaths is undoubtedly higher than the numbers given officially. The health authorities rely on the figures given by the large hospitals in the central areas. But they don’t bother to go into the more remote areas as they prefer to stay safely at home rather than visit the sick. Phone calls between Haitians in Port-au-Prince and those in outlying areas show the epidemic continues to spread, especially in rural areas where the illness first appeared.

The heath minister and other officials–lying as often as they breathe–declared the epidemic contained even before there were another 300 deaths. While they blab into the journalists’ microphones, the cholera continues to spread in four other areas of the country.

Of course the epidemic is not contained. It is a disease easily transmitted from feces to mouth, from contaminated water and food, from a lack of a clean and stable environment for those ill. In a country that lacks not only purified water and pipes for sewage but also soap, what can be expected except the spread of this kind of disease? And where are the doctors, nurses and health aides needed to contain and treat the cholera?

The largest river in Haiti, the Artibonite, is contaminated by sewage. The most plausible hypothesis, admitted by everyone except the United Nations troops, is that the river is at the origins of the cholera epidemic.

And even more shameful is that the population near the river has to drink this unhealthy polluted water. They have no other choice.

Throughout the country, less than one in three schools has clean drinking water–even according to the ministry of education.

The situation is all the more alarming because all the factors exist in Haiti to spread this cholera epidemic: poverty, lack of awareness concerning drinking water, sanitation problems, the lack of septic systems, not to mention the floods caused by Hurricane Thomas. Even in the cities, much of the population in the enormous slums has no place to urinate or defecate. With no toilets, people have to use the ground, which then contaminates the area and nearby water.

Here is the face of capitalism in poor countries like Haiti, where a handful of businessmen–along with their flunkeys in power–enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. That is why we must get rid of this unjust, irrational and inhumane social system.