Ban joins Hispaniola effort against cholera

A child studies a cholera prevention poster in Haiti. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a new initiative to fight cholera. Photo by: Mark Turner / CC BY-NC-SA

Ban Ki-moon has announced a new initiative that will support a 10-year effort against cholera in Haiti. This comes amid mounting calls for the United Nations to take responsibility over the spread of the disease in the country.

The Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti will focus on water and sanitation projects, and support the Haitian government’s oral vaccination campaign. Target beneficiaries are people in densely populated urban areas and those in areas “far removed from health services.”

“As [global vaccine] production increases, the vaccine effort will expand its reach,” the U.N. secretary-general said during the initiative’s launch.

Ban has announced $215 million in support from bilateral and multilateral donors. The United Nations will also provide $23.5 million to the initiative.

The initiative will complement a call for action against cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in January. The action plan, developed by both governments, will be launched in January 2013, according to the Pan-American Health Organization. Under it, Haiti will need $2.2 billion to see the end of the epidemic in the country.

The disease has cost the lives of more than 7,500 people in Haiti to date, although deaths have reportedly dropped by end-2011. But there has been a surge of new infections following Hurricane Sandy, according to the World Health Organization.

“I will use every opportunity in the months ahead to mobilize even more funding,” Ban said, adding that the global body will also continue to support the government in tracking cholera spending and ensure the effective use of resources.

Ban has appointed Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, to serve as his special adviser under the new initiative.

U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal have largely been accused of spreading the disease in the country. Haiti experienced a major cholera outbreak 10 months after being hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010. A group of lawyers and campaigners, the Guardian reports, is planning to include more cases in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the United Nations.

“If the U.N. doesn’t take responsibility, there’ll be protests,” Camille Chalmers of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development told the Guardian.

U.N. humanitarian affairs chief in Haiti Niger Fisher said the case will have to be left “in the hands of the legal process until they have worked that through.” But he hopes “that is sooner rather than later. We’d all like to put that issue behind us so we can contain the continued epidemic.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.