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Cholera coalition urges support for water in Haiti

Cholera coalition urges stepped-up support of water for Haiti

PAHO/WHO and partners in the Regional Coalition to Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola welcome new support to improve water and sanitation in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Washington, D.C., 19 March 2015 (PAHO/WHO) — On World Water Day 2015, the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera in Hispaniola is calling for stepped-up support from the international community to help Haiti and the Dominican Republic end the cholera epidemic on their shared island.

The Regional Coalition has been supporting efforts by the two countries to expand access to water and sanitation while also strengthening their health systems' response to cholera. It was originally launched in 2012 by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and partners including UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Universal access to water and sanitation is a pillar of public health and is critical to defeating cholera and water-borne diseases," said Isabella Danel, Deputy Director of PAHO/WHO, which serves as secretariat for the Regional Coalition. "We believe access to water and sanitation is a basic human right, and we invite other organizations who agree to join and help Haiti and the Dominican Republic make that right a reality for their inhabitants."

Since cholera first broke out in Haiti in 2010, more than 730,000 Haitians have been sickened by the disease and more than 8,700 have died. In the first two months of 2015, Haiti reported an average of more than 1,000 new cases each week (as of Feb. 21). The Dominican Republic has reported more than 32,000 total cholera cases and 480 deaths since 2010. The disease also caused outbreaks in Cuba and Mexico, and other countries reported imported cases.

With support from the Regional Coalition, the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic developed national plans to eliminate cholera through major improvements in safe water, sanitation, and hygiene and health system strengthening. Since 2012, coalition members and other international partners have helped Haiti make progress including:

• The construction and rehabilitation of drilled boreholes, shallow wells, spring and rainwater harvesting structures, and other water supply options

• The launch in 2014 of a "Total Sanitation Campaign" aimed at improving water and sanitation in priority communes

• Creation of a new performance monitoring system to track water quality and use, as well as finances in water and sanitation systems and facilities throughout the country

• Capacity building for water supply and sanitation committees, communal administrative councils, and communal water and sanitation technicians to improve service delivery and governance in the water sector

• Passage in 2009 of a law on water sector reform, which aims to improve access and service through decentralization of the water and sanitation sector.

Both the Haitian government and its international partners acknowledge, however, that much more action and investments are needed to fully implement the national cholera elimination plan. That plan calls for an initial $310 million over three years—$2.2 billion over 10 years—to fund investments in water and sanitation infrastructure, improvements in water safety surveillance and resource management, health education on hygiene for the population, and institutional capacity building at all levels.

"Haiti and its partners have made meaningful progress in water and sanitation, but defeating cholera will require a significant scale-up of these efforts," said PAHO/WHO Deputy Director Danel. "The work done so far by our Regional Coalition partners needs to become universal, and this will require new resources. World Water Day is an opportunity to urge the international community to step up to the plate and provide the necessary support."

ENDS

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