Years after a UN peacekeeping team brought cholera to Haiti, the UN estimates that a problem solvable with $2,000 would now require $2.2 billion to rid Haiti of the disease. To prevent similar outbreaks in the future, experts came up with preventative measures to diminish pathogen transmission such as pre-screening travelers, use of prophylaxis, and treatment of waste before disposal.
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Learning From the Cholera Crisis in Haiti
Elizabeth Carthy, Crisis Response Journal
Five-and-a-half years since its arrival, cholera had killed at least 9,300 people and sickened over 770,000. Studies indicate that an investment of approximately $2,000 (€1,700) in preventative measures could have prevented the epidemic, while the UN estimates that eradicating cholera from Haiti through water and sanitation infrastructure will cost $2.2 (€1.9) billion.
This article outlines key lessons drawn from the epidemic, and the importance of acting upon them in order to prevent a similar disaster in the future.
The epidemic highlights the danger that peacekeepers, which are meant to protect vulnerable populations, can end up as vectors of disease. The risk is not limited to Haiti or cholera; the current UN peacekeeping model relies heavily on troop contributions from countries which themselves face high burdens of infectious disease, and peacekeeping forces are, by definition, deployed into areas where conflict has often resulted in high levels of poverty, inadequate health infrastructure, and difficulty accessing basic protective resources. Yet existing guidelines on peacekeeping and disease focus largely on protecting peacekeepers from local diseases, overlooking the risks to locals from imported ones.
The UN has also failed to establish adequate accountability frameworks to help deter reckless practices and provide an avenue to resolve complaints by victims harmed by peacekeeping missions.
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