On Tuesday and Wednesday, Dr. Serge Conille, the HIV/AIDS technical Advisor of the USAID-funded SDSH project led by Management Sciences for Health, and designated lead of the project's emergency cholera task force, and I visited project-supported health facilities in the epicenter of the epidemic in the lower Artibonite Department (Province).
We drove into the cholera zone over a dirt track through a flat plain of fields, green, but neglected. The road ran parallel to what appeared to be a wide canal, the dikes on either side uneven and crumbling. Later, I found out that this was the Artibonite river, source of the epidemic. It was constrained and channeled some 25 years ago as part of a “whole valley development plan” which included promotion of rice cultivation. The rice is largely gone and the dikes are frequently overrun by the river which floods the surrounding countryside isolating some villages, sometimes for long periods of time.