Via the Miami Herald, a report by Jacqueline Charles: Haiti cholera plan drags as rain begins. Excerpt:
When Haiti’s health ministry reported it had only registered 2,228 cases of cholera at the end of a two-month period this year, it was the first time since the outbreak exploded almost four years ago that so few people had become sickened by the disease.
But the dramatic drop earlier this year also came with a somber reality: Haiti, according to the World Health Organization, still boasts the largest number of the world’s reported cholera cases in 2014.
And that, says the United Nations’ envoy charged with raising millions of dollars to help eliminate the waterborne disease from the impoverished island, makes cholera a deadly medical emergency even if the rest of the world doesn’t agree.
“We are making progress, but this shouldn’t be an argument to consider that we are out of the woods,” said Pedro Medrano, U.N. senior coordinator for cholera response in Haiti. “There is a silence; nobody is concerned about the cholera epidemic. People are paying more attention to the legal case.”
Five months into the job, Medrano said he is struggling to not only raise $2.27 billion for the U.N.’s 10-year cholera eradication plan, but also awareness. If donors don’t loosen the purse strings, he said, he fears cholera will surge and worse, spread to other countries in Latin America beyond the cases that have already been reported in the neighboring Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and the United States.
Haiti’s Health Minister Florence Guillaume agrees, saying donors need to do more to align their funding with Haiti’s priorities, which includes a two-year cholera plan that is “concise and results-oriented.”
“If they were to listen to us, the problem would already be halfway solved,” she said.
The concerns over the lack of donor support for Haiti’s cholera problem come as the country enters its rainy season after months of an alarming drought that had the World Food Program still distributing food to desperate farmers on Thursday. It also comes as Haiti and the U.N. prepare to establish a long-promised high level cholera commission to tackle the ground response.
“The legal case has its own path,” Medrano said, adding the priority is stopping the transmission and getting rid of cholera. “It’s an emergency and we need to strengthen the health system and water and sanitation.”
So far, the cholera bacteria has killed more than 8,500 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000. At least three lawsuits have been filed in U.S. federal courts, against the U.N., which has invoked immunity while refusing to take responsibility for the disease despite scientific studies linking it to a leaking sewage at a base in the Central Plateau region that housed Nepalese peacekeepers.
Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, blames the lack of donors’ response on the U.N. “minimizing the extent of the cholera epidemic and overstating the extent to which it has been under control, in order to reduce calls for it to respond better.”