Franklin Graham expressed alarm over the rapid spread of cholera in Haiti Saturday and called on the international community to increase its response.
More than 1,110 people have died in Haiti from cholera as of Friday, since it first broke out in October. Another 18,000 people have become sick because of the intestinal disease that causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Cholera is easily treated but can be fatal if not detected early.
"I am alarmed at the rapid spread of cholera in Haiti and the lack of capacity and supplies to properly prevent and treat this life-threatening disease," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the relief and development organization Samaritan's Purse.
Samaritan's Purse has 295 staff working in Haiti who have treated more than 2,000 cholera patients at the organization's two treatment facilities.
Graham noted that his group's assessments lead him to believe that the number of cholera deaths is "significantly understated." He urged the U.S. military to begin emergency airlifts to provide needed supplies to treat cholera, and for Haitian authorities to expedite customs clearance process to allow relief supplies into the country.
Joining Samaritan's Purse medical team in Haiti Saturday is a seven-member doctor and nurse team from HCJB Global Hands in Quito, Ecuador. The medical team brings about 500 pounds of medicines to reinforce the cholera response by Samaritan's Purse. Cholera can be treated with oral hydration salts.
"I call on the churches of America to pray this Thanksgiving for the people of Haiti, our neighbors just a few hundred miles from our own shore, who have suffered so much this year," Graham said. "Out of the abundance that we have been given, we should share with those who have so very little."
The World Health Organization said Friday Haiti's cholera outbreak will inevitably spread to the Dominican Republic. However, it does not expect the disease to be as widespread given the Dominican Republic's better sanitary conditions.