UN seeks funds to fight cholera

The United Nations agencies and their partners on Nov. 12 appealed for US$164 million to support Haiti’s efforts to fight the deadly cholera.

The U.N. said the outbreak that has already claimed several hundred lives in the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean nation.

The funds sought for the Cholera Inter-Sector Response Strategy for Haiti will go towards getting additional doctors, medicines and water purification equipment to respond to the epidemic, which has spread quickly since it was first confirmed on Oct. 22, the U.N. said.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 12,000 Haitians having been hospitalized so far, and over 800 people have died from the disease, which is spread by contaminated food and water.

Up to 200,000 cases of cholera are expected to be reported over the next 6 to 12 months in Haiti, which is also dealing with the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake and flooding in the wake of Hurricane Tomas, which struck the country last weekend.

“A major effort has already been made, but the sheer quantity of relief items that need to be delivered in the days and weeks ahead is going to require more logistical and financial by all humanitarian agencies and donors and very close coordination,” said Nigel Fisher, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti.

“Without this, the epidemic could well outrun our efforts,” he added.

Five out of the ten departments, or administrative divisions, that make up Haiti have been directly affected by cholera since the outbreak.

Nearly half a million water tablets, soap and oral rehydration salts are being distributed, targeting areas where cholera has already been detected.

Cholera treatment centers – an essential first line of response – are now open in 15 urban centers across the country, including seven in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), in conjunction with the World Food Program (WFP), are identifying and preparing other suitable locations for cholera treatment units.

The bulk of the appeal – around $89 million – will be used for water, sanitation and hygiene, while US$43 million will be used for health, and $19 million for efforts in the camps housing people displaced by the earthquake, the U.N. said.

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