The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Wednesday announced it was sending medicines and medical supplies to the Venezuelan town of Las Tejerías, in the State of Aragua state (central-north), where the number of fatalities has been updated to 43 following mudslides from heavy rains.
Local authorities have also announced they had given up hope of finding anybody else alive and that the rescue efforts would go on for additional bodies of the over 50 people who are still missing.
This way, the urgent needs of people with diabetes and hypertension and those suffering from skin and lung diseases can be met, PAHO added regarding the donation to the local community of around 5,000.
The continental organization, which is part of the World Health Organization, also assisted with 10,000 water purification tablets. Since last Sunday, one day after the mudslides, PAHO were working together with Venezuelan officials, the international agency said in a press release.
PAHO also warned Wednesday that the Americas were facing four public health emergencies: the recent outbreak of cholera in Haiti, the cases of monkeypox, the continuing infections by COVID-19, and the low rates of vaccination against poliomyelitis, which increases the need to prepare for health emergencies, Director Carissa Etienne said during a virtual press conference.
She urged local authorities to work quickly with the tools we have at hand to control these four health emergencies that are occurring in the Americas.
PAHO recalled that after more than three years, Haiti last week reported a cholera outbreak just as the country was about to be declared cholera-free. As of October 9, national authorities had confirmed 32 cases and 18 deaths, as well as more than 260 suspected cases around Port-au-Prince, but the number is likely to be much higher than reported as escalating street violence and criminal activity limit medical access to the affected areas.
Regarding monkeypox, over 45,000 cases have been reported in the Americas, representing 63 percent of the global total. Although the spread of the virus appears to be slowing, more than 2,300 new cases of monkeypox were reported in the region last week, mostly in the United States, but also hundreds in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. We know how to keep track of this disease. We know who is most at risk. And we know how to keep people safe from infection, the PAHO director underlined.
Etienne also said that the downward trend of COVID-19 worldwide, including in the Americas, shows that we may be moving from the acute phase of the pandemic to a sustained control phase, which is attainable only with continued testing and increased vaccination, Etienne argued. Last week, the Americas recorded 178,000 new cases of COVID-19, and although more than 70 percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean is already fully vaccinated, many countries are still falling short of that target, and ten countries and territories in the region have not yet reached 40 percent, according to PAHO.
Brazil, Haiti, Peru, and the Dominican Republic, are at very high risk of experiencing an outbreak of polio, while eight other countries in the region were at a high risk, Etienne insisted. With effective vaccines and decades of immunization experience, we have the power to keep it at bay, Etienne stressed.