The United Nations said on Tuesday that Haiti's cholera epidemic is not receiving the international attention it deserves and asked the donor community to increase support.
Pedro Medrano, the Secretary-General's senior coordinator for the cholera response in Haiti, said it is clear the epidemic is not "on their radar screen," and encouraged donors to pay attention.
The outbreak began in 2010 and is considered the largest in the Western Hemisphere, infecting more than 700,000 people and killing more than 8,500.
"I think that it is clear that any country with the number of people suffering last year - 65,000 new cases, and we have more than 700,000 cases in total - would consider this an emergency," Medrano said.
In December 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a program to educate, treat, prevent and eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
"Delivering and sustaining better health requires an urgent, scaled-up effort to combat the disease and address decades of under-investment in basic systems for safe water, hygiene, sanitation and healthcare," Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti Sandra Honoré said.
Medrano said that less than half the population has access to safe drinking water and less than 17 percent has access to sanitation.
"It's impossible to stop the transmission of cholera and other water-borne diseases without urgent interventions in water and sanitation," Medrano said.
In response, the U.N. developed a two-year, $68 million initiative to support Haiti's National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera. The Ministry of Health, with additional support from the Pan-American Health Organization, hopes to vaccinate 200,000 people during the next few months, and another 300,000 before the end of the year.
Medrano said they are making progress, and have fewer cases now than in previous years, but there is still work to be done.