CHOLERA FEARS HURT HAITI'S RICE HARVEST
(Montreal Gazette) - AFP
A significant part of the rice harvest in Haiti is likely to be lost as farmers increasingly fear cholera contamination from the water in their paddies, the UN food agency FAO said yesterday.
Many farmers in northwestern Haiti are avoiding the harvest because they are worried that the water that irrigates their fields may be infected, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said.
"The important thing is not to stop harvesting," said Annika Kaipola, operations officer at the FAO.
"The farmers are afraid of catching the disease because it is waterborne, but our investigations so far have shown there's no danger in cultivating the rice as long as basic hygiene measures are followed," she said.
The cholera outbreak has so far killed more than 2,500 people across the country.
The FAO also said consumers were reportedly unwilling to purchase produce from regions directly affected by the cholera outbreak.
The Haitian Ministries of Agriculture and Health have launched a campaign to provide health and sanitation information to farmers.
But the messages are not reaching some areas, and advice needs to be given to rural low-income communities in person through hands-on training and outreach, the FAO said.
"Avoiding the disease is a question of basic hygiene. We need to tell farmers that it's about washing hands properly, cooking food, boiling and purifying the water used in the home," said Kaipola.
Cholera, which first appeared in mid-October in the north, led to deadly anti-UN riots last month as a desperate populace turned its anger on peacekeepers from Nepal accused of bringing the disease into the country.
Angry Haitian mobs have since lynched at least 45 people accused of spreading cholera with a magical substance