OCHA’s Operations Director raises cholera alarm in Haiti; calls for innovative and sustainable solutions
(Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 24 May 2012): OCHA’s Director of Operations, John Ging, has ended a three-day visit to Haiti where he took stock of the humanitarian challenges, particularly the cholera epidemic and preparedness in the run-up to the hurricane season.
Mr. Ging visited a cholera treatment center run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the Martissant neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Grave concerns were expressed by aid workers about this year’s epidemic, which has already affected 13,000 people, 132 of whom have died. WHO has warned that the epidemic may escalate to more than 200,000 cases in 2012. Detection and response capacity are significantly reduced this year due to cuts in aid budgets. The OCHA Director stressed the urgency for new and more sustainable approaches by aid agencies and local authorities, and more commitment by donors. “It is unacceptable that lives are being lost to cholera because last year’s capacity building in the areas of prevention and response were lost due to a lack of funding,” Mr Ging said.
Mr. Ging also met Haiti’s Minister of Health, Dr. Florence Duperval Guillaume, who outlined the government plan for a more sustainable approach to cholera and health care more generally. Improving the appalling conditions of hundreds of thousands of people who lack potable water and basic sanitation was highlighted as the most urgent priority in the effort to prevent further outbreaks of disease.
Mr. Ging also visited the Champs de Mars camp for internally displaced people (IDPs), where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is supporting voluntary return of IDPs. Out of the 1.5 million people displaced by the 2010 earthquake, nearly 1.1 million Haitians have now returned home. Complimenting IOM and appealing to donors, Mr. Ging said: “When we speak of innovative and sustainable solutions, the IOM programme is an excellent example. The success of this programme should encourage donors to continue their support until every one of the remaining 400,000 internally displaced have found an alternative to the squalor of these camps.” Representatives of donor countries acknowledged in a meeting with Mr. Ging that much progress had been made, but agreed that the inhumanity of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Haitians must motivate all parties to continue. “Having saved their lives after the earthquake, it is urgent to help rebuild livelihoods,” Mr Ging concluded.
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