December 11, 2012

UN pledges support and $23.5 million toward ending cholera in Haiti, Dominican Republic

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the global body will join a $2.2 billion 10-year cholera eradication initiative launched almost a year ago by the leaders of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The United Nations will provide support and $23.5 million in funding to help Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic eliminate a deadly cholera epidemic that has sickened more than 600,000 and killed more than 7,700, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.

Ban said while Haiti, in particular, has seen a dramatic drop in cholera infection and fatality rates, eliminating the waterborne disease from the island of Hispaniola “will continue to require the full cooperation and support of the international community.”

Tuesday’s announcement comes almost a year after Haitian and Dominican leaders announced a 10-year cholera eradication plan, requiring $2.2 billion for Haiti and $70 million for the Dominican Republic. It also comes amid increased public pressure by human rights advocates and others, including filmmaker Oliver Stone, who recently launched an Internet petition campaign, for the U.N. to take responsibility for introducing cholera in Haiti via Nepalese peacekeepers.

Ban did not address the U.N.’s role or a legal lawsuit brought on behalf of victims.

Dan Beeton of the Washington-D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research said it doesn’t seem that the U.N. will be taking responsibility for cholera anytime soon.

“This is their mess, and they need to clean it up,” Beeton said. “People are dying while they continue to dodge responsibility.”

In addition to the U.N.’s contribution, Ban said donors will provide $215 million. But the money still falls short of the $600 million Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said is needed to implement the plan over the next two years focusing on improving water and sanitation services.

“We have to work together to bridge the gap in finding new resources,” Lamothe said.

Ban pledged his support and announced that he has tapped Dr. Paul Farmer, a renowned humanitarian, to serve as his Special Adviser. Earlier this year, Farmer’s Partners In Health medical organization in Haiti launched a cholera vaccination program in high-risk areas. Ban said the U.N. will support oral cholera vaccinations as part of its plan that also focuses on water and sanitation improvements.

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