Haiti: Cholera response plan less than 10% funded

(Port au Prince, 20 November 2010): The response to last week’s UN-led appeal for 164 million USD to fight cholera has so far been insufficient for an adequate response to the epidemic, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti said today.”While we are very grateful for the contributions received so far, both cash and in-kind, so far we only have received less than 10% of what we need,” said Humanitarian Coordinator Nigel Fisher. “Critical supplies and skills are urgently needed. We need doctors, nurses, water purification systems, chlorine tablets, soap, oral rehydration salts, tents for cholera treatment centres and a range of other supplies.”

At the national launch of the cholera response plan last week, which details plans for a 14 month response, the UN and the Government of Haiti stressed the importance of responding, quickly given how fast the disease is spreading. The epidemic was accelerated by flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas on November 5th. The response has also been impeded by recent violence in Cap Haitien, one of the most serious of the current hotspots, where most cholera response has been suspended for the past four days. So far, nearly 50,000 people have sought medical attention, of whom 19,646 cases have been confirmed as having cholera – and these numbers, which only represent those who have reached medical facilities, are expected to rise.

“Cholera is an extremely simple disease to cure, and the case mortality rate of 2.4% in medical facilities shows that almost all patients receiving help are surviving” said Mr Fisher. “Without medical help, the mortality rate will increase dramatically. Oral rehydration salts or home made sugar-salt solutions are enough to treat 80% of cases. If we can provide timely treatment to patients we can save lives.”

The Cholera Response Plan focuses on the need to improve water and sanitation and on public information to help prevent the spread of the disease, as well as scaling up medical capacity by building specialized cholera treatment centres (CTCs), smaller treatment units and oral rehydration centres. The plan includes activities to be undertaken by nearly 50 NGOs.

So far 36 CTCs have already been set up nationwide along with 61 smaller cholera treatment units, and more are being built. More are planned, as CTUs need to be provided for every hospital in Haiti. Yesterday alone humanitarians distributed 40 tonnes of medical supplies. The response strategy also provides for 650 oral rehydration centres which can administer basic lifesaving rehydration salts. Distribution of water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts and soap is ongoing across the country, as is a large scale public information campaign.

“We would like to thank those donors and partners who have responded so far,” added Mr Fisher. “We also need to recognize that this appeal relates to emergency response needs now. In the longer term, effective management of cholera- and other communicable diseases that Haitians suffer from every day – must mean proper investment in Haitian capabilities, in protected water supplies and environmental sanitation systems across the country, and in proper waste disposal methods. The reality we must all face is that cholera is here to stay in Haiti. We must minimize unsanitary conditions that foster epidemics.”

For further information, please call:

Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1917 892 1679, bunker@un.org;

Emmanuelle Schneider +1 646 241 4651, mobile +1 646 752 3117, schneider1@un.org; Imogen Wall +509 3491 2244, wall@un.org;

Elisabeth Byrs OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 4734570, byrs@un.org.

OCHA press releases are available at http://ochaonline.un.org or www.reliefweb.int.

The mission of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors.

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