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Dramatic Appeal to Combat Cholera in Haiti and...
Dramatic Appeal to Combat Cholera in Haiti and Dominican Republic
"53 uncentre uncentre uncentre" (2012-02-05)
Dramatic improvements in water and sanitation services are needed to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, health experts who took part in a UN-organized briefing to outline concrete steps to stem the spread of the disease in the region stressed.
Women carry jerry cans of chlorinated water, used to contain cholera in DRC | Credit:UN
The event, organized by the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional arm, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)
, urged governments and international organizations to boost investment in the infrastructure and institutional capacity required to provide water and sanitation in areas affected by the disease.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the bacterium known as vibrio cholera. The disease has a short incubation period and produces a toxin that causes continuous watery diarrhoea, a condition that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not administered promptly. Vomiting occurs in most patients.
Water and Sanitation Expensive?
While cholera no longer poses a threat to countries with high standards of hygiene, it remains a challenge in countries with limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, UN reported on 11 Jan.
PAHO Director Mirta Roses discussed the misconceptions surrounding the provision of water and sanitation, mainly that it is seen as expensive, and emphasized that the costs of not investing in these services is much higher as evidenced by the thousands of people who have died in Haiti since the cholera outbreak in October 2010, ten months after it was hit by a devastating earthquake.
She stressed that the right to water and sanitation is an essential human right, making it crucial for governments to strive to provide these services in every sector of society.
Roses also underscored the importance of water and sanitation as a pre-requisite for sustainable development and economic growth in any country, and warned that ignoring this would leave countries “extremely vulnerable.”
“As we fight with climate change and the scarcity of water, it is even more important to be responsible but also to be equitable in the distribution of this precious resource,” she said, adding that partnerships are also essential to fight the disease as countries shift from cholera control to cholera elimination.
Up to 200 Cholera Cases… Daily
Kevin De Cock, Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Center for Global Health, echoed Roses remarks, stressing the role of the infrastructure in preventing the spread of cholera.
He warned that even though fatality rates have decreased because of effective treatment, “there are still 100 to 200 cholera cases daily in Haiti, and we expect surges with the onset of the rainy season.”
De Cock said that for Haiti to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),
the global development targets with a 2015 deadline, some 250,000 households will need improved water sources, and another 938,000 will require access to improved sanitation.
The Chief of Water Sanitation for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Sanjay Wijesekera, argued that in addition to investing in infrastructure, an effective strategy that takes into account the various forms of transmissions is needed, as well as education to encourage behavioural change in communities.
300,000 Temporary Jobs
On 6 Jan., a senior UN official said that considerable humanitarian needs remain.The allocation of resources for Haiti’s recovery from the devastating earthquake two years ago has shifted to reconstruction, infrastructure restoration, debris removal, job creation and capacity building.
had a year of transition from the humanitarian phase to the recovery and reconstruction phases,” Rebeca Grynspan, the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said.
On job creation, Grynspan said UNDP had helped create 300,000 temporary jobs since the quake, organizing people to carry out activities such as debris removal, garbage collection and enhancing disaster risk reduction. Forty per cent of the temporary jobs have gone to women.
“This has given 60,000 families possibilities to rebuild their livelihoods, have access to specialized training and cash,” she said. “This is the largest job creation programme we have in the world… 90 per cent of the labour force employed in the execution of UNDP projects is Haitian.”
60 % of Haiti’s Labour Force, Unemployed
Efforts are now shifting towards the creation of more sustainable jobs, moving from cash-for-work schemes to cash for production employment, according to Grynspan.
“We are supporting more and more small businesses, community-based organizations, self-employment and much more training for the labour force for them to be able to have access to the job market,” she added.
“Let us remember that one of the major challenges we face in Haiti is the long-term high rate of unemployment that has been a deeper long-standing crisis.” An estimated 60 per cent of Haiti’s labour force is unemployed, she said.
Five Million Cubic Metres of Debris
Grynspan pointed out that 50 per cent of the debris from the earthquake has been removed, and that efforts included the demolition of damaged buildings that cannot be repaired. “We are talking about five million cubic metres of debris,” she said, explaining that that was the equivalent of five football stadiums full of debris.