By Nic Johnson, Undergraduate Research Assistant
On October 24, 2013, Representative Barbara Lee (CA) and the Global Health Caucus hosted “Conquering Cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic: The Untold Story of Progress” at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. The briefing featured representatives of public health organizations and advocacy groups to discuss new policy initiatives and partnerships for the elimination of cholera in Hispaniola.
Karen Goraleski, Executive Director of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, introduced the background of the event, a “call to action” in January 2012 that began a partnership between Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and a group of more than 20 international organizations to eliminate cholera on the island of Hispaniola by 2022. This international coalition led to the creation of the 2013 National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti. Continue reading
By Adam Houston, Jerry Stenquist, Beatrice Lindstrom, Katharina Rall, and Alok Pokharel, Visiting Focus Bloggers
Photo credit: Ben Depp
This piece is the second in a series on the cholera epidemic sweeping Haiti. This perspective was written by staff and legal fellows at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).
The Haitian cholera epidemic is the most serious of the 21st century, with over 600,000 cases and 8000 deaths since October 2010. As affirmed repeatedly, including by the UN-mandated independent panel of experts tasked with investigating the source of the epidemic, the scientific evidence indicates that the epidemic originated from a UN base situated on a tributary of the Artibonite River in Mirebalais.
Cholera patients in Haiti. Source: Rapadoo Observateur
This is the first in a series of posts on cholera and its impact on Haiti. The first post is a discussion of the disease itself, and serves as an examination of medical and epidemiological factors that enabled cholera to be carried by Nepalese UN peacekeepers and spread throughout Haiti with deadly force.
Haiti’s cholera epidemic began in October of 2010. Since then, researchers have been investigating the origin of the infection, as it had not been seen on the island of Hispaniola in over a century. Scientists have performed biochemical tests and genetic analysis on the bacteria in Haiti, tracing the current outbreak to a strain of Vibrio cholerae that is widespread in cholera-endemic southern Asia. The CDC found evidence that human waste from a UN peacekeeping base staffed by Nepalese officers was contaminating tributaries of the Artibonite River that flowed through many of the tent cities housing displaced Haitians after the earthquake. Journalists and the public put two and two together, and outrage has ensued, and legal action is being taken against the UN on behalf of affected Haitians.
The epidemic has killed 8,000 people and many thousands have fallen sick. Photo: BBCNews
Re-posted from BBC News Latin America and the Caribbean
By Mark Doyle, BBC International Development Correspondent
May 29, 2013
UN efforts to tackle cholera in Haiti are “almost non-existent”, a charity says, as the world body faces court action for inadvertently starting a cholera epidemic in the country.
Late last year, the UN launched a $2.2bn-appeal (£1.5bn) to improve water supplies in Haiti. But Medecins Sans Frontieres says this has had almost no practical effect. The UN is accused of negligently allowing peacekeeping soldiers to pollute Haiti’s water with cholera.
The epidemic, which is spread by infected sewage, has killed more than 8,000 people since late 2010. “There have been grand plans – a 10-year $2.2bn project,” Duncan McClean, a senior manager for MSF, told the BBC. But the UN plan had not been implemented, he added. “I travel regularly to Haiti; the impact on the ground today is almost non-existent.”
The UN plan to improve drinking water and sewage outlets – which MSF says is unfulfilled – was widely seen as the international body’s attempt to deflect calls by the victims of cholera for financial compensation. Responding to the MSF charge, the UN told the BBC that “enormous efforts” had been made to support Haiti’s cholera eradication plans. These efforts had resulted in significantly fewer cases and reduced mortality rates. But the UN also recognised that a shortage of funds meant “resources mobilised to date are clearly insufficient to face a potential peak of cases” in the forthcoming rainy season. It has called for more resources from member states to tackle the cholera epidemic.
The UN says it has legal immunity from the compensation case. Lawyers for the cholera victims say that unless talks on compensation begin in the next few weeks, they will take the UN to court in New York.
MSF said the cholera situation in Haiti was currently “extremely alarming”. The rainy season had begun – causing the usual flooding of infected open sewers – while donor countries had reduced aid commitments.