Haiti, D.R. to Present $2 Billion Plan to Improve Health and Sanitation Infrastructure to Fight Cholera

November 29, 2012

In the coming weeks, Haiti, together with international partners, will call on donors to fund a $2.2 billion 10-year plan to upgrade the water, sanitation and health infrastructure in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As Jonathan Watts of The Guardian reports, the plan “will be unveiled with the backing of foreign aid groups and the UN, which is accused of one of the greatest failures in the history of international intervention.” That failure, of course, is the introduction of cholera to Haiti, which a number of scientific studies have linked to the sanitation facilities at a MINUSTAH base located on a tributary of the country’s main water supply. The epidemic has thus far killed over 7,730 people in Haiti and sickened some 620,000 more, 6 percent of the entire population. While fatality levels are down from their peaks, over 125 people have died in just the last month.

As the AP’s Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel report, the plan – which is set to be released under the auspices of the Haitian and Dominican governments, the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF — includes “building water supply systems, sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants, as well as improving access to latrines, especially in schools.” It also aims to provide significant capacity building support to the Haitian government, to ensure proper oversight and maintenance of the new facilities. The plan aims to provide 85 percent of Haitians with improved drinking water and 90 percent with improved sanitation facilities by 2022. In 2008, just 17 percent of Haitians had access to adequate sanitation facilities and 63 percent to adequate drinking water. The goal, as Dr. Jordan Tappero of the CDC tells the AP, is “to eliminate transmission of cholera.”

Yet the $2.2 billion plan is almost completely un-funded, with just $5 million promised by the World Bank so far. Watts reports that, “The government will ask for more than $500m (£315m) for the next two years in a short-term emergency response to the epidemic. Another $1.5bn or so will be requested for the following eight years to eliminate the disease.”

While the Haitian government and international groups can call on donors, NGOs and private corporations to fund the plan, these entities have failed to even live up to their post-earthquake aid pledges. A recent analysis by the United Nations Special Envoy revealed that just 53 percent of the $5.33 billion pledged has been disbursed.  Additionally, funding is already drying up for treatment efforts. Partners in Health (PIH) has warned that although “the emergency isn’t over” and that cholera “is still a leading cause of death in Haiti,” their funding from the U.S. will run out in February. PIH’s Dr. Louise Ivers is quoted in Watts’ article: “Haiti had never seen a case of cholera before October, 2010, yet somehow needless cholera deaths are beginning to be accepted as the new norm. That is an outrage that we cannot accept.”

The lack of funding, and the UN’s culpability, is why, as The Guardian reports, “many victims and activists believe the UN must take a greater responsibility” in ensuring cholera’s eradication. Last year, on behalf of thousands of victims of the epidemic, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed a claim with the UN seeking damages for the victims but also hundreds of millions of dollars for improving Haiti’s water and sanitation infrastructure.  The UN has thus far not responded. Pressure is also building in the Haitian legislature and among grassroots groups, as Camille Chalmers tells The Guardian, “If the UN doesn’t take responsibility, there’ll be protests.”

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