U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “has appointed renowned United States physician Paul Farmer to help galvanize support to eliminate cholera in Haiti, where the disease has already claimed over 7,750 lives,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “He will also be charged with advising ‘on lessons learned’ from the epidemic and ‘how those can be applied in Haiti and other settings,'” according to a U.N. statement, Agence France-Presse notes, adding, “Farmer, 53, heads Harvard’s department of global health and social medicine. From 2009 to 2012, he also served as deputy to the U.N. special envoy for Haiti under former U.S. President Bill Clinton” (12/29). “The naming of the Special Adviser for Community-Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti comes just weeks after Mr. Ban launched a new initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola,” the U.N. News Centre writes (12/28).
“Scientists say the cholera outbreak that struck more than 7,000 people in Guinea this year was caused by a more toxic and more contagious generation of the bacteria,” and they “suspect the same strain killed nearly 300 people and struck more than 22,000 others in neighboring Sierra Leone,” VOA News reports. “Through genetic sequencing of the cholera bacteria found in Guinea, epidemiologists working with the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] have identified them as atypical variants of the O1 El Tor strain,” the news service writes. Francois Bellet, a member of UNICEF’s regional office for West and Central Africa, “said this discovery raises the alert level, requiring stronger epidemiological surveillance, preparedness and response to cholera outbreaks in Guinea and throughout the region,” according to VOA (Palus, 12/20). “This type of strain was present in Zimbabwe in 2009, in the Lake Chad Basin in 2009, and is found in Haiti currently,” IRIN notes (12/18).
“Those following the two-year-old saga of the United Nations and cholera in Haiti were startled by” the U.N.’s announcement last week of a $2.2 billion initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, freelance journalist Jonathan Katz and Tom Murphy, editor of the development blog “A View From the Cave,” write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Since [the crisis began in October 2010], scores of epidemiologists — including those appointed by the U.N. itself — have unearthed overwhelming evidence supporting the hypothesis that [U.N. peacekeepers] carried the disease and introduced it to Haiti through negligent sanitation,” they continue, adding, “In response, U.N. officials have ignored, dismissed, or mischaracterized it all.”
Some Diplomats, U.N. Observers Express ‘Concerns’ Over U.N. Appeal For Haitian Cholera Aid, Al Jazeera Reports
Following U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s announcement on Tuesday of a new initiative appealing for $2.2 billion over 10 years to fight cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Al Jazeera reports “there are concerns by some diplomats and U.N. observers that the funds necessary for the program would not be forthcoming from donors.” As part of the larger appeal covering the island of Hispaniola, in Haiti “[t]he new program dedicates $215 million from donors along with $23.5 million from U.N. funds towards programs in public health, capacity building, public education, and clean water systems,” according to the news service. However, “Haiti will need $500 million over the next two years for its own national cholera plan,” Al Jazeera writes, adding, “The funds allocated in the program would therefore cover only one year.”
“The United Nations [on Tuesday] announced a new initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘The new initiative will invest in prevention, treatment, and education — it will take a holistic approach to tackling the cholera challenge,’ said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the initiative’s launch,” according to the news service (12/11). “With the number of reported cases exceeding 620,000 since the epidemic started in October 2010, [Ban] acknowledged the ‘heavy toll’ as he launched the 10-year initiative,” Agence France-Presse writes.
“Haiti and the Dominican Republic will require $2.2 billion over the next 10 years for an ambitious plan to eliminate cholera, an official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] said Wednesday,” the Associated Press/NewsOK reports. “The plan is due to be rolled out in a week or two and it outlines a government-led effort backed by the CDC, the Pan American Health Organization and UNICEF,” though it is “still unclear who will pay for what would be the biggest endeavor yet to develop Haiti’s barely existent water and sanitation system,” the news service writes (Daniel/Mendoza, 11/29).
Inter Press Service reports on World Toilet Day, observed on November 19, noting, “Currently, over 800 million people have no access to safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion people are living without adequate sanitation.” “While most developing nations have made limited progress in providing clean water, the targets for sanitation have remained virtually unreachable,” leaving “a lingering question in the minds of activists: how best can water and sanitation be given high priority in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the U.N.’s post-2015 economic agenda?” the news service writes. “A new goal on universal access to basic water and sanitation services as a fundamental human right, with a target date for achieving universal access to basic water and sanitation services by 2030 would be a good start,” Hannah Ellis, international campaigns manager for the London-based WaterAid, told IPS, the news service adds. Last week in a joint statement, the government of Finland, UNICEF, U.N. Women, WaterAid, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, “called for an end to water and sanitation inequalities in the U.N.’s post-2015 development agenda,” IPS notes (Deen, 11/15).
With recent suggestions “of privatizing the [U.S.] government’s emergency response capability for natural and human-caused disasters and infectious diseases,” Henry (Chip) Carey, an associate professor of political science at Georgia State University in Atlanta, writes in the World Policy Blog, “One might want to look at Haiti for a case study in the effects of bypassing the government health sector for private organizations.” He continues, “In Haiti, the result of decoupling the state from health care has been across the board decreases in water and sanitation quality.” Carey reviews the history of Haiti’s health system and conditions surrounding the 2010 cholera outbreak. He concludes, “What is needed are comprehensive, low-tech sanitation systems and clean, common water sources throughout the country, overseen by the Haitian government. In the past three decades, the U.S. has not given Haiti’s leaders the chance to show us that they can rise to the occasion. It is high time we change course and help the Haitians help themselves” (11/14).
Sometimes “[w]hen the international aid community descends on a vulnerable place … good intentions make a bad situation even worse,” a Boston Globe editorial states, adding that is “what happened two years ago, when United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake, bringing the deadly disease cholera with them.” According to a panel of U.N. experts, poor sanitation in the peacekeepers’ camp likely caused the outbreak, which has killed 7,000 people and sickened 500,000, the editorial notes. “So far, the United Nations has declined to apologize for its role, or even admit it — perhaps because it is facing a deluge of expensive legal claims brought by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti on behalf of the victim’s families,” the editorial states, noting that after a year, the “U.N. says it is still studying the claims.”
“The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) is to deliver emergency aid to the south-east of Cuba, where Hurricane Sandy wrought widespread damage,” BBC News reports. “The WFP is also appealing for $20 million (Â£12.5) to help some 425,000 Haitians affected by the storm,” the news service writes, noting, “The WFP is planning to work with the Cuban government to distribute emergency one-month aid in Santiago de Cuba, which is home to 500,000 residents.”