U.N. launches $2.2 billion cholera initiative

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced a $2.2 billion initiative on Tuesday to rid Haiti of cholera, which has killed 7,750 Haitians and sickened close to 620,000 since October 2010.

An independent panel appointed by the U.N. found strong evidence correlating the introduction of the disease to the impoverished nation by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. The World Health Organization predicts as many as 112,000 cases in Haiti in 2012, Reuters reports.

"Haiti has seen a dramatic fall in infection and fatality rates," Ki-moon said, according to Reuters. "But this will not be a short-term crisis. Eliminating cholera from Haiti will continue to require the full cooperation and support of the international community."

According to the director-general, Haiti required $500 million to implement the first two years of the cholera initiative. The initiative will also address the spread of the outbreak to Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

"The main focus is on the extension of clean drinking water and sanitation systems," Ki-moon said, according to Reuters. "But we are also determined to save lives now through the use of an oral cholera vaccine. Because global vaccines are in short supply, we will first target high-risk areas: densely populated urban areas and rural areas far removed from health services. As production increases, the vaccine effort will expand its reach."

Ki-moon said that $215 million worth of existing funds from donors would be used for the initiative and that the U.N. will contribute $23.5 million in addition to the $118 the global body already spent on the outbreak in Haiti.

"I will use every opportunity in the months ahead to mobilize even more funding," Ki-moon said, according to Reuters.

Haiti is still dealing with the complications of a January 2010 earthquake that killed approximately 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. Approximately 390,000 people are still living in tent camps more than two years later.