HEALTH

Tensions Rise Between Haitians, Dominicans

The devastating cholera situation in Haiti, which is trickling over to neighboring Dominican Republic, is stirring tension between the two nations.

Both sides are pointing fingers, with Dominicans accusing Haitians of causing violence and spreading cholera in their country, and Haitians saying the allegations smack of racism.

The problem has grown so bad that dozens of Haitians, bags of clothes in hand, have been abandoning Dominican neighborhoods after being threatened with expulsion, according to Listin Diario, a daily newspaper in the Dominican Republic.

The Dominicans blame Haitians for the majority of robberies and assaults in their neighborhoods, and say Haitians are using schoolyards and parks places as their personal lavatory – thus threatening to infect them with cholera, the newspaper said. Some neighborhood boards have gone so far to give undocumented Haitians an ultimatum: Leave, or we will remove you by force, the paper said.

Haitians, meanwhile, say they are being discriminated against because of their skin color – and fear for their lives because Dominicans have threatened to beat them if they don’t abandon certain neighborhoods, the paper said.

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According to Efe, the clashes have prompted the Dominican federal government to step in, with immigration authorities saying they will prohibit any expulsion of Haitians. Authorities told the news agency that they are receiving many of complaints about the undocumented Haitians, but the agency was concentrating on Haitians illegally trying to cross the border rather than those already in the country.

Cholera, a water-borne illness whose symptoms include vomiting and watery stools, has killed over 1,700 in Haiti and infected over 130,000 people since October, according to the United Nations.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, cracked down on its border to prevent the spread of the fatal disease – but the number of infected Dominicans keeps climbing. This week, the total number of cholera cases in the DR rose to 70 – putting the tourist-dependent country on emergency mode.

President Leonel Fernández announced Wednesday he was launching a nationwide campaign to figure out ways to control and prevent the spread of cholera in the country.

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