Widespread Cholera Vaccination Needed In Haiti While Improvements Made To Water, Sanitation Systems

“As the world’s worst outbreak of cholera continues to ravage Haiti, international donors have averted their gaze,” a Washington Post editorial writes. The editorial notes that a “pilot project to vaccinate Haitians against the disease … reached only one percent of the population, with no immediate prospect of expansion,” and “[o]f the 100 or so cholera treatment centers that sprang up around the country after the disease was detected 19 months ago, fewer than a third remain.” The solution to the epidemic is “equally well known and costly,” the editorial states, adding, “Haiti needs modern water and sanitation infrastructure, an undertaking that might cost $1 billion. But while donors tend to respond generously to emergencies, such as the earthquake that devastated Haiti in early 2010, they lose interest in long-term fixes of the sort that would deal decisively with cholera.”

“Groups representing thousands of Haitian cholera victims have demanded millions of dollars of reparations from the United Nations,” citing allegations that U.N. peacekeepers introduced the disease to the island nation, but if the international body raises funds, the money “would be more profitably spent on a much more aggressive cholera vaccination program,” the Washington Post states. Noting that approximately $40 million would be needed for a large-scale vaccination program, the editorial says, “[I]nternational health organizations dragged their feet on vaccines, worrying they might be too expensive or difficult to administer. They preferred a systemic infrastructure fix.” But “[t]hat’s simply indefensible,” according to the editorial, which concludes, “It may take many years to provide adequate water and sanitation systems in Haiti, but a two-dose vaccine that costs $4 per person can be manufactured right now. Granted, there will be logistical hurdles to overcome … But to do nothing in the interim is immoral” (5/26).

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