5 May 2011 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti will continue supporting all efforts to combat the spread of cholera in the Caribbean country, cautioning today that the forthcoming rainy season could pose fresh challenges because of the risk of contamination of water sources. “The rainy season is coming and this is a great source of concern for us because the more water you have, the more the risk of new propagation of the epidemic,” said Sylvie van den Wildenberg, spokesperson for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
“MINUSTAH is committed to keep supporting all the humanitarian partners – those in the UN family and indeed the Government of Haiti – in order to respond in the most efficient manner to this new challenge,” she told a news conference in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
Ms. van den Wildenberg spoke a day after the release of a report by an independent panel set up by the UN to investigate the source of the cholera outbreak that has claimed more than 4,500 lives in Haiti since last October. The report concluded that a “confluence of circumstances,” and not the fault of any group or individual, was responsible for the fast-moving outbreak.
The four-member panel of experts included a series of recommendations for the UN and the Haitian Government so they can help prevent the future introduction and spread of cholera.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced that he plans to convene a task force to study the report’s findings “to ensure prompt and appropriate follow-up.”
Nearly 300,000 Haitians have been sickened since the outbreak started and fresh infections and deaths continue to occur.
Ms. van den Wildenberg said tremendous efforts have been made and good results achieved in the fight against cholera, but the country still remains vulnerability to the disease owing to its poor sanitation.
An appeal for $175 million launched by humanitarian agencies last year to respond to the epidemic has received only 48 per cent of the requested funding, and she urged donors who made pledges to make the resources available for continuing efforts to fight the disease.
The spokesperson also noted that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, Edmond Mulet, had offered the UN’s deepest sympathies to those affected by the cholera epidemic and the families of those who had died.