UN warns of surge in Haiti cholera deaths
By Tim Witcher and Mariano Andrade, AFP
January 23, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
UNITED NATIONS--A United Nations envoy warned Wednesday that cholera deaths in Haiti will surge and spread to other countries unless more funds are found to battle the epidemic.
More than 8,330 people have already died from cholera, that started in 2010 and many blame on U.N. peacekeepers based in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
But special envoy Pedro Medrano told AFP in an interview that legal wrangling over the epidemic has to be put aside in order to tackle the sweeping advance of the disease.
Medrano said cash is lacking for purification tablets, anti-biotics and staff to keep up a campaign that has cut the number of victims over the past two years.
If funds are not found before this year's rainy season starts in May, "we will face a very dark situation."
The 65,000 new cases reported in 2013 were the lowest reported yet but still more than 550 people died, according to U.N. figures.
Medrano said that unless funds are found the U.N. estimates that the number of cases could double this year and deaths increase four-fold.
"If we are not prepared to make the investment now, we will have this year perhaps close to 180,000 cases and even up to 2,000 fatalities," he said.
The strain of cholera, that originally came from South Asia, has already been reported in Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic with some deaths.
A single case of cholera in a Peruvian port in the 1990s spread to 18 South American countries and killed 10,000 people, Medrano noted.
The U.N. assistant secretary general, who was named to the tough post in October, called for "a Marshall Plan for water and sanitation" in Haiti, a country of 10 million people with a long history of natural disasters and political strife.