PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Protesters attacked a cholera treatment center as it was preparing to open in the city of St. Marc yesterday, highlighting the fear surrounding a disease that was almost unknown in Haiti before it began spreading through the countryside, aid workers said.
Some of the roughly 300 students and other protesters said they feared the Doctors Without Borders-Spain clinic would bring more of the disease to their seaside town, which is one of the hardest hit in the week-old epidemic that has killed 284 people and infected 3,769, according to United Nations figures.
Witnesses said the protesters threw rocks and at least one Molotov cocktail. UN peacekeepers from Argentina arrived with riot shields to reinforce police. Warning shots were heard; the UN said its soldiers fired blanks. There were no reports of injuries.
Haitian health officials assured the crowd the clinic would not open in that neighborhood.
The 400-bed facility was intended to rehydrate and treat people with the severe diarrheal disease.
Doctors Without Borders-Spain country chief Francisco Otero said the group had consulted with local authorities and told them the clinic is important for stemming the spread of cholera. He said they would try to reopen it in another part of St. Marc.
“In the coming days we are going to start to work with this community, to explain that there is no risk for them to have such a facility,’’ Otero said.
More than 420 new cholera cases were confirmed yesterday, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Twenty-five new deaths were confirmed, bringing the total to 284.
Office spokeswoman Imogen Wall says the majority of cases occurred along the central Artibonite River with many new instances in Haiti’s central plateau. St. Marc’s main hospital was the first to call the alert about the epidemic as it overflowed with the sick and dying.