Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

PAHO Urges Improved Water and Sanitation to Fight Cholera

Pan American Health Organization and WASH Advocates are urging international support for major improvements in water and sanitation in Haiti so that cholera may be prevented rather than simply treated. PAHO says that poor water and sanitation are what allowed cholera to spread so quickly in the first place and are the key to stopping the epidemic.

Improved water and sanitation infrastructure key to controlling Haiti cholera

March 25, 2014

More than 700,000 people have been sickened by the disease and more than 8,500 have died up to mid-March 2014.

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Tuesday March 25, 2014, CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says while Haiti has made significant progress in slowing the spread of cholera, controlling and eventually eliminating the disease will require major improvements in water and sanitation infrastructure.

Representatives from PAHO and its partner organizations in the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera from Hispaniola are urging stepped-up support for a “call to action” launched in 2012.

“World Water Day is an opportunity to highlight how critical water and sanitation are in the fight against cholera,” said PAHO Deputy Director Jon K. Andrus on Friday, designated by the United Nations as World Water Day.

“This was a key lesson learned in stopping the cholera epidemic that swept the Western Hemisphere in the 1990s,” he added.

During that time, Andrus said countries prioritized safe water and sanitation as fundamental to stopping cholera transmission while ensuring access to safe water as a basic human right.

“We want to go far beyond treating cholera patients. We want to stop the actual transmission of cholera in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere, and to get there we need major improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene,” said John Oldfield, chief executive officer of WASH Advocates, a Washington-based non-profit, nonpartisan initiative dedicated to helping solve the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) challenge.

Since October 2010, PAHO said cholera has spread to all of Haiti’s departments, into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, and beyond the island of Hispaniola to Cuba and Mexico.

In Haiti alone, it said more than 700,000 people have been sickened by the disease and more than 8,500 have died, as of mid-March 2014.

Although the epidemic has slowed considerably, PAHO warned that cholera has continued to sicken an average of 385 people per week in Haiti during 2014.

Even before the January 2010 earthquake, PAHO noted that Haiti had the lowest levels of water and sanitation coverage in the Americas, with only 63 percent of the population having access to improved sources of drinking water, and 17 percent having access to improved sanitation.

“These conditions facilitated the rapid spread of cholera after its initial outbreak in October 2010,” said PAHO, adding that in order to fight the epidemic, the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2012 launched a “Call to Action” for the international community to support major improvements in safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

In response, PAHO said it formed with several partners the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera from Hispaniola “to mobilize international support for the two countries’ efforts in this area”.


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