SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

Infrastructure woes, lack of funds stymie effort to eradicate cholera in Haiti

Haiti’s cholera eradication effort may take 40 years to achieve. | Contributed photo

Health professionals currently fighting a cholera outbreak in Haiti say the country cannot afford to wait 40 years for total eradication of the disease.

The United Nations says the earliest cholera could be eradicated is within 10 years, but with today’s funding rate, eradication will take four times as long.

The most recent cholera outbreak in Haiti began in October 2010. Since then, over 707,000 patients have been diagnosed with cholera, and more than 8,600 people have died from the disease.

“We are standing at a tipping point, and the European Union – the world’s largest single donor of development aid – could be a leading actor on this: Haiti cannot wait two generations until reaching the same levels of coverage as the rest of the region,” Pedro Medrano Rojas, senior U.N. coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, said.

Health professionals said the cholera cases will not decrease until basic concerns in health, water and sanitation are remedied, as cholera thrives in areas with weak public health systems.

“Like Ebola, cholera feeds on weak public health systems and requires a sustained response,” Medrano said. “At the current rate of disbursement, it would take more than 40 years to get the funds needed for Haitians to gain the same access as its regional neighbors to basic health, water and sanitation systems.”

Experts around the world are working toward a solution. Individual and corporate representatives from the U.N. and Haiti began a national sanitation campaign in July 2014. In October, they publicly announced their next step in the "10-Year National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti," a three-year initiative.

“With a clear roadmap of what needs to be done, the international community has now the opportunity to extend its solidarity with Haiti,” Medrano said.

Medrano said the best preventive measure in addressing the cholera outbreak is oral vaccines, but at this time, there is no funding for oral cholera vaccines -- inoculating 300,000 people requires $3 million from the Haitian government’s initiative.

Medrano is encouraging donors to step up their responses. With more resources, Haitians will have clean water, sanitation and a health care system to eradicate cholera within 10 years.

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