"Violent protests against UN peacekeepers and Haiti's government are disrupting efforts to control the cholera epidemic, with fears that unrest will worsen in the runup to next week's election.
Riots in the north of the country spread to Port-au-Prince on Thursday, smothering swaths of the capital in choking black smoke from burning barricades.
UN staff were forbidden to venture out while crowds roved the streets tearing down election posters, erecting roadblocks and demanding the withdrawal of foreign peacekeepers who are suspected of bringing a disease that has killed 1,100 and infected more than 20,000 since last month.
Helicopters clattered over Port-au-Prince today monitoring the city for fresh flareups. Trucks and armoured vehicles with blue-helmeted troops, as well as Haitian police with shields and helmets, patrolled the streets.
"This is insane, how are we supposed to contain a cholera outbreak like this?" said one UN administrator.
In Cap-Haïtien, a northern city where the riots started earlier this week, people who were vomiting and had diarrhoea were unable to reach treatment clinics. Local media reported that bodies of those who succumbed were left on the streets.
"If the country explodes in violence then we will not be able to reach the people we need to," said Julie Schindall, an Oxfam spokeswoman.
Haitians believe peacekeepers from Nepal, which has cholera, flushed contaminated faeces from base latrines into the Artibonite river, triggering the outbreak. DNA fingerprinting has confirmed it is a south Asian strain which came from a single source. Travellers from Haiti brought cholera to the neighbouring Dominican Republic and Florida this week but authorities said controls and good sanitation should contain the disease. Ten inmates died in the overcrowded national prison in Port-au-Prince, raising fears for the health of 2,000 other inmates."