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U.N., International Community Should Pledge To Improve Water, Sanitation In Haiti To Mitigate Cholera Epidemic

“The cholera epidemic in Haiti, which began in late 2010, is bad and getting worse, for reasons that are well understood and that the aid community has done far too little to resolve,” a New York Times editorial states, adding that the “Pan American Health Organization has said the disease could strike 200,000 to 250,000 people this year” and “has already killed more than 7,000.” The editorial says the U.N. “bears heavy responsibility for the outbreak,” as it is suspected that U.N. peacekeepers introduced the disease to the island nation, and it notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this month that “cholera in Haiti was evolving into two strains, suggesting the disease would become much harder to uproot and that people who had already gotten sick and recovered would be vulnerable again.”

Many non-governmental organizations have left Haiti, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the editorial notes, adding that a recently implemented cholera immunization campaign “is a worthy effort that will save lives, but not a substitute for basic water and sanitation.” According to the editorial, “[a] letter circulating in Congress calls on Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, to urge the world body to fully commit to eliminating cholera from the island of Hispaniola.” The editorial says that the $800 million to $1.1 billion the CDC estimates is needed to build “adequate water and sanitation systems … can surely be wrested from the billions that nations have pledged to Haiti, though contributions have flagged as attention to the crisis has faded.” The editorial concludes, “The U.N. and the international community have a responsibility to meet the crisis head-on. There are pledges to fulfill, dollars to deliver and lives to save” (5/13).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.