UN in urgent appeal for US$400m to fight spread of cholera in Haiti

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:53pm


A United Nations envoy warned that cholera deaths in Haiti will surge and spread to other countries unless more funds are found to battle the epidemic.

More than 8,330 people have already died from a cholera outbreak that started in 2010 and many blame UN peacekeepers based in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

But special envoy Pedro Medrano said that legal wrangling over the epidemic had to be put aside in order to tackle the sweeping advance of the disease.

Medrano said cash was lacking for purification tablets, antibiotics and staff to keep up a campaign that had cut the number of victims over the past two years.

If funds were not found before this year's rainy season starts in May, "we will face a very dark situation", Medrano said.

The 65,000 new cases reported in 2013 were the lowest reported yet but still more than 550 people died, according to UN figures.

Medrano said that unless funds were found the UN estimates that the number of cases could double this year and deaths increase four fold.

"If we are not prepared to make the investment now, we will have this year perhaps close to 180,000 cases and even up to 2,000 fatalities," he said.

The strain of cholera, that originally came from South Asia, has already been reported in Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic with some deaths.

A single case of cholera in a Peruvian port in the 1990s spread to 18 South American countries and killed 10,000 people, Medrano noted.

The UN has launched an appeal to raise US$2.2 billion for Haiti over the decade. But Medrano said US$400 million had to be found over two years to contain the epidemic and build infrastructure to stop a repeat.

The Haitian government has reported more than 680,000 cases since the epidemic broke out in October 2010 near a UN camp where Nepalese peacekeepers were based.