U.N. Appeals for $164M to Combat Haiti Cholera

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The United Nations asked its member nations for $164 million Friday to fight the cholera outbreak on the island nation of Haiti.

The epidemic has claimed 724 lives and more than 11,000 people have been infected in five of Haiti's 10 districts. Ten deaths and 278 cases have occurred in the capital Port-au-Prince.

Health experts predict the outbreak will continue to spread for up to a year.

The donated funds will be used by U.N. and non-governmental organizations to bring in additional doctors, medicines and water-purification equipment to treat up to 200,000 people who could show cholera symptoms ranging from mild diarrhea to severe dehydration, the global body said.

"We absolutely need this money as soon as possible," said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. humanitarian office.

She told reporters in Geneva that the funds need to be provided quickly "otherwise all our efforts can be outrun by the epidemic."

The World Health Organization said Friday that the epidemic isn't likely to end soon.

"The projections of 200,000 cases over the next six to 12 months shows the amplitude of what could be expected," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. He noted that the current fatality rate of 6.5 percent is far higher than it should be.

"No one alive in Haiti has experienced cholera before, so it's a population which is very susceptible to the bacteria," Hartl said. "Once it is in water systems it transmits very easily, and it transmits among people who are often asymptomatic."

"Cholera, now that it is in Haiti, probably the bacteria will be there for a number of years to come," he added. "It will not go away."

The cause of the outbreak of the disease in Haiti remains unknown. The country had not seen any cholera cases in several decades before October.

Operation Blessing International is in Haiti, helping to fight the outbreak with water purification equipment.

Find out how you can help the people of Haiti.

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