U.N. Announces Members Of Independent Panel To Investigate Source Of Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the names of four experts to be part of an independent panel that will “investigate the source of Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which some Haitians blame on U.N. peacekeepers,” Reuters reports (Worsnip, 1/6). “The members of the panel have been selected based on their global stature, expertise and extensive experience working with cholera in all its aspects,” according to a statement from Ban’s spokesperson, U.N. News Centre reports (1/6). “The panel will operate completely independently from the United Nations and will have access to all U.N. records, reports, facilities, and staff members as required. It will present a written report of its findings to the Secretary-General and to the Government of Haiti,” the statement declares (1/6).

“The panel will be chaired by Alejandro Cravioto of Mexico, from the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. The other three members are Claudio Lanata of the Instituto de Investigacion Nutritional in Peru, Daniele Lantagne of Harvard University in the United States, and Balakrish Nair of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in India,” according to U.N. News Centre (1/6).

In related news, Elisabeth Byrs, a spokesperson for the U.N. Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “on Thursday blasted the response to an appeal to counter the deadly cholera epidemic in Haiti as ‘shameful’ after the world body received only a quarter of the funding it needs,” Agence France-Presse reports.

“Out of the 174 million dollars (131 million euros), the U.N. has only received 44 million or 25 percent of the funds we asked for, although (the situation) is of the utmost urgency,” Byrs said. “It’s not moving. It’s shameful that we should have so little money for an illness that currently kills in a flash because people don’t have rehydration salts,” she added.

OCHA made an appeal for donations to fight the cholera epidemic in November, the news service notes. “Byrs insisted there was still a need for speed and underlined that cholera could easily be treated when patients received enough care. The funding would also help to prevent waterways being contaminated and [to] set up more treatment centres in rural areas,” AFP reports. According to figures from Haiti’s health ministry last week, 3,333 people have died from the cholera epidemic and 150,000 have been infected (1/6).

Meanwhile The Economist looks at efforts to rebuild Haiti almost one year since the earthquake hit. “[W]hen visiting journalists parachute in to Port-au-Prince for the anniversary of the earthquake, they will see few signs of progress and many of stasis. Rubble still blocks many streets. Even if the work of removing it goes according to the official schedule, less than half will be cleared by October. Only about 30,000 temporary shelters have been built. … This landscape of neglect and degradation mocks the widespread hope in the weeks after the quake that Haiti could ‘build back better,’ as Bill Clinton, the United Nations special envoy to the country, put it,” the magazine writes.

In describing the work of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC), The Economist writes that “it has met rarely, its mandate expires in nine months, and at its fourth meeting in December the 12 Haitian members complained in a letter that they felt left out.” Pamela Cox, a World Bank official who sits on the IHRC, notes that even wealthy countries have struggled after disasters, pointing to Hurricane Katrina as an example. “Although she concedes that planning for reconstruction should have started earlier, Ms Cox says she sees progress: 400,000 houses have been assessed and classified by structural engineers, debris removal is accelerating and the economy has held up,” the magazine reports.

The article also looks at how the ongoing presidential election fits into the rebuilding effort (1/6).

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