The cholera epidemic in Haiti has affected an unacceptable number of people with around 706,089 suspected cases and an estimated 8,592 deaths reported from October 2010 to 30 August 2014 by the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP). Despite a significant reduction in the incidence of cholera, Haiti continues to host the largest cholera epidemic in the western hemisphere. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the UN has made eliminating cholera from Haiti a top priority and has initiated a system-wide effort to support the GoH in the fight against the disease.
Concerted Haitian and international efforts have succeeded in significantly reducing the toll of the epidemic. All geographical areas are covered through government rapid response teams (EMIRAs) and partner field teams deployed throughout the 10 departments and are supported locally by water and sanitation technicians, civil protection brigadiers, and community health workers. About 70 per cent of the interventions of these rapid response teams are done within 48 hours after an alert. Thanks to the increase in the use of cholera rapid tests, the GoH and the UN can better differentiate cholera from acute diarrhoea and identify and isolate areas where cholera persists.
According to Dr Pierre Gazin1 , from the French Institute of Research and Development, who is supporting UNICEFs cholera response, the downward trend in cases is also due to prevention interventions and improved coordination between institutional and humanitarian actors. Immunity developed by part of the population and improved community awareness of cholera prevention may also be contributing to the positive trend.
Despite progress made, structural issues, including weak water, sanitation and health systems, enable cholera, acute diarrhoea or other waterborne diseases to persist. Haiti has fallen further behind the rest of the region in sanitation coverage since 1990, with the most excluded population in rural areas. More than a third of the population lack access to safe water (47% in rural areas)3 . Cholera is still an emergency in Haiti and efforts need to be pursued to sustainably eliminate the disease. The UN reaffirms its commitment to work closely with national authorities and international partners to mount a scaled up response to beat back the spread of cholera.
The joint GoH and United Nations High-level Committee for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti met on two occasions in Port-au-Prince, in May and July 2014. The third meeting took place on 2 October in Port-au-Prince, which was an opportunity to present the results of the vaccination campaign and discuss the next steps of the national sanitation campaign. The Committee will ensure the implementation of a common strategy for the elimination of cholera in Haiti and the provision of social and economic assistance to affected communities.