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UN Special Coordinator: “Let´s not forget the cholera in Haiti”

SGHaiti7

11 November 2014 — Considerable progress has been made in fighting Haiti's cholera epidemic, but it is still an emergency and a let up in response would have horrible consequences, the UN Special Coordinator for the Response to Cholera in Haiti warns.

"I fear that the enormous progress we have made leads people to believe that the problem has been resolved. It is not resolved. Every day 30 people are infected," says UN Assistant Secretary-General Pedro Medrano Rojas on the cholera epidemic in Haiti. 

Mr. Medrano, who was appointed Special Coordinator on this issue in 2013, is visiting Geneva, Oslo and Brussels this week (10-14 November) to rally support to the response to the epidemic. 

Since October 2010, the epidemic has affected more than 707,000 people and claimed over 8,600 lives.

Haiti2Mr. Medrano says that the world´s attention has, understandably, been drawn to the Ebola epidemic in West-Africa, which has been qualified as one of the most urgent global health issues in recent times.

However, he says, we should not forget about another epidemic on the other side of the Atlantic:

Haiti3“Contrary to Ebola, cholera is not a systematic killer and can be treated effectively, thanks to available treatment, but it spreads quickly as it is transmitted by food or contaminated water. In an environment where health care, access to sanitation, safe water and treated sewage are at a minimum level, it can provoke epidemics such as the one Haiti is facing today.”

A remarkable – but fragile – progress has been made this year. After averaging 5,000 cases a month in 2013, the monthly caseload had dropped to 1,000 cases through August 2014.

However, late and abundant rains in October, tripled the number of reported cases compared to the preceding months this year and the situation might still worsen. 

Haiti4Mr. Medrano points out that in addition to the immediate needs such as medical treatment and prevention, what is needed in the medium and long term, is investment in infrastructure so people have access to safe water and a sanitation system, sewage treatment and waste disposal.

“What cholera and Ebola have in common is that they both are fed by weak public health systems and both require a sustained response”, says Mr. Medrano. “And as the Ebola is a reminder that both epidemics do not respect borders in today´s globalized world.”

Photos: 

1. ASG-UN Senior Coordinator for the cholera response in Haiti, Pedro Medrano Rojas, during a visit to Haitian rural community Los Palmas,( 13 July 2014) UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
2. A doctor assists a patient suffering from cholera at the L'Estere medical centre near Port au Prince where the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is working to contain the cholera outbreak. UN Photo/UNICEF/Marco Dormino (31 October 2010)
3. A 'train the trainer' session for community leaders who will be responsible for managing filtration systems. UN Photo/Logan Abassi (23 April 2014)
4. During a visit to Haiti in July 2014, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (third from the right) launched with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe (centre) the country’s “Total Sanitation Campaign” which aims to scale up sanitation and hygiene in rural areas. They are seen here visiting with a family in Los Palmas. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras (14 July 2014)

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