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Contaminated water a concern in Haiti

Haiti’s next survival challenge lurks in its broken pipes, tainted wells and stagnant puddles: Water. If contaminated, it will spread disease. If stagnant, it will breed malarial mosquitoes. And if there’s no water at all, dehydration and death may follow.

“People can live without food for a really long time and they can eat anything, but if you have bad water and you drink it, you get cholera, you get childhood diarrhea,” says Mia Vukojevic, humanitarian program manager for Oxfam Canada.

“A small kid in warm temperatures without water can dehydrate so quickly, you wouldn’t believe it.”

Water-borne diseases following Tuesday’s earthquake could boost the death toll by another 10 to 20% over the disaster’s initial fatalities, says Dr. Gerald Evans, president of the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada. “There’s just a litany of potential infectious, contagious stuff that’s going to affect an area like that.”

Humanitarian groups from the Canadian military to Doctors Without Borders are shipping in potable water or filtration equipment as quickly as possible. They must — water-related diseases start to show up within seven to 10 days.

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