Frustration and Anger Over Conditions in Haiti

Byron Pitts Reports On The Cholera Outbreak And Haiti's Difficult Recovery From The Earthquake

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Ever since these camps sprung up, conditions have been so unhygienic there were fears they could become a breeding ground for waterborne diseases like cholera.

Fears of that came true on October 22, when an epidemic of cholera struck the remote countryside.

"Were you surprised when the epidemic erupted?" Pitts asked Haiti's Prime Minister is Jean-Max Bellerive. "Scare you?"

"Yeah," the prime minister said. "My biggest concern was that the capital, Port-au-Prince, was seriously touched for the concentration of the population. And the condition a lot of the population are living right now. So, I was afraid."

At first, the epidemic was only in the countryside where David Walton, an American physician from Boston, has worked for 13 years.

"It went from a few cases of diarrhea that were quite suspicious to, you know, all hands on deck. This is an epidemic of the proportions of which we have never seen before in Haiti. There are 60 cases of acute watery diarrhea that we had heard about. The next day, 24 hours later, 500 cases," Dr. Walton explained.

Dr. Walton works for Partners In Health, a U.S.-based international health organization that operates 15 hospitals and clinics in Haiti.

The one "60 Minutes" visited, La Colline, is the only hospital for miles.

While we were there, a 16-year-old girl named Manoushka had just arrived. It had taken her a full day just to get there. She had all the classic symptoms of cholera.

The disease is an acute intestinal infection caused by drinking contaminated water.

If not treated quickly, it can kill in a matter of hours. So Dr. Walton and his Haitian colleagues rushed to start Manoushka on IV fluids and a life saving mixture of ordinary bottled water sugar and salt.

"These are not ideal medical conditions," Pitts observed.

"These are not ideal medical conditions. When this hospital was built three years ago, we did not envision a crisis of this proportion," Walton explained.

Since the epidemic began, the staff at La Colline has treated over 550 cholera patients. Five have died.

Friends and neighbors of one sick woman we saw were praying for her to live.

"Look, we're gonna get through this. However we do it, we're gonna do it, but there is a way forward. We have to. There is no other way. We're not gonna lay down and die. It's gonna be slow. It's gonna be tough. It's gonna be agonizing. But we will make it through," Walton vowed.

To help Haiti "make it through," the international community created the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission last April. Its mandate: to control and coordinate the monumental job and the billions of dollars to rebuild nearly everything in the country.

Haiti's prime minister serves as one co-chairman; the other co-chair is an American who honeymooned in the country 35 years ago: former President Bill Clinton.

"Your plate was full before the earthquake. Why take this one?" Pitts asked.

"I took it because I know more about Haiti and I've spent more time there than almost any other American figure, and so I know a lot of the leaders and I understand the culture better than a lot of people do. And I love the place," President Clinton said.