UN news centre
30 November 2016 – The response to cholera in Haiti will be a “long and thorough battle,” but the United Nations will stand by the Haitian people and authorities, Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said on the eve of the launch of the Organization’s new approach to tackling the epidemic in the country.
The new approach was announced last August and will be launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, 1 December. It includes rapid interventions in areas where cases are reported and the prevention of future high-risk public health crises.
The new approach on cholera also focuses on people and proposes the establishment of a program of material assistance and support to Haitians directly affected by the disease.
“This is an approach that goes to the root of the problem with long-term investments in the sanitation facilities that the country needs to eradicate cholera; short-term investments to halt the progression of cholera; and, most importantly, putting people and communities affected by cholera at the heart of our efforts,” Mr. Dujarric said in an interview with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) FM Radio.
“The United Nations must listen to the Haitian people, must listen to the communities that have been affected by this disease,” he stated, adding that consultations with communities will be of great importance. “Only communities will be able to explain what they need and how we can help them.”
Cholera patients receive treatment at a centre in Cap-Haïtien in Haiti. Photo: UNICEF/Maxence Bradley
The new strategy will also examine an individual approach, the Spokesman continued. Such an approach would require a precise identification of the victims of cholera and their family members, as well as a minimum amount of funding.
“We know very well, and the Secretary-General knows very well, that the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the people most affected by the cholera epidemic. We regret the terrible suffering endured by the Haitian people as a result of the epidemic,” said Mr. Dujarric.
According to UN estimates, the programme is expected to cost about $400 million over the next two years. “It is not an insurmountable sum, and the Secretary-General is very hopeful that the General Assembly and the international community will show solidarity and will be there to help Haiti at a time when aid is needed,” the Spokesperson said.
“The most important in the long term is a sustained investment in the health network in Haiti to ensure that water distribution is at a level where water saves and feeds and water no longer poisons as we have seen with cholera,” he concluded.
The cholera outbreak in Haiti began in October 2010. It has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,200. Concerted national and international efforts since then have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the number of suspected cases. This number remains high, however, and recent outbreaks show the continued vulnerability of the population to the disease, which is preventable and treatable.