UN's new approach on cholera puts people at heart of response

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonon Thursday presented to the UN General Assembly the UN's new approach to cholera in Haiti, which will be a "long and thorough battle," but the United Nations will stand by the Haitian people and authorities.

"The report unveiling that approach is now out," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here. "It provides information on the two tracks of the new approach, identifies challenges in connection with its implementation and sets out a proposed timeline."

The new approach was announced last August and was launched here Thursday by the secretary-general. It includes rapid interventions in areas where cases are reported and the prevention of future high-risk public health crises.

The new approach on cholera, presented to the 193-member General Assembly by the secretary-general in an informal briefing, also focuses on people and proposes the establishment of a program of material assistance and support to Haitians directly affected by the disease, Dujarric told reporters here.

"This is an approach that goes to the root of the problem with long-term investments in the sanitation facilities that the country needs to eradicate cholera; short-term investments to halt the progression of cholera; and, most importantly, putting people and communities affected by cholera at the heart of our efforts," Dujarric said in an interview with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) FM Radio.

"The United Nations must listen to the Haitian people, must listen to the communities that have been affected by this disease," he said, adding that consultations with communities will be of great importance. "Only communities will be able to explain what they need and how we can help them."

The new strategy will also include an individual approach, he said. It will require a precise identification of the victims of cholera and their family members, and a funding threshold to establish "a lump sum for each death" due to cholera, but he warned that this part of the strategy "will take much longer."

"We know very well, and the Secretary-General knows very well, that the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the people most affected by the cholera epidemic," he said. "We regret the terrible suffering endured by the Haitian people as a result of the epidemic."

According to UN estimates, the programme is expected to cost about 400 million U.S. dollars over the next two years. "It is not an insurmountable sum, and the secretary-general is very hopeful that the General Assembly and the international community will show solidarity and will be there to help Haiti at a time when aid is needed," he said.

"The most important in the long term is a sustained investment in the health network in Haiti to ensure that water distribution is at a level where water saves and feeds and water no longer poisons as we have seen with cholera," he said.

The cholera outbreak in Haiti began in October 2010. It has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,200.

Concerted national and international efforts since then have resulted in a 90 percent reduction in the number of suspected cases. This number remains high, however, and recent outbreaks show the continued vulnerability of the population to the disease, which is preventable and treatable.

[ Editor: meng ]


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