PAHO moving from cholera control to cholera elimination in Hispaniola

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Children lay roses on a memorial for UN personnel who perished during the earthquake in Haiti two years ago

NAR: Haiti is experiencing one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history. Eliminating cholera from the island of Hispaniola will require dramatic improvements in water and sanitation services. PAHO/WHO, CDC and UNICEF are suggesting four concrete steps to continue saving lives and reducing disease in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

While the international community has supported the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in implementing cholera prevention and control interventions, major investments in infrastructure and institutional capacity to operate it, are needed to keep cholera from becoming endemic in Haiti.

Even before the earthquake two years ago, population access to improved water and sanitation in Haiti was far below levels in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, and the situation has only grown worse.

At a joint press conference titled: A Call to Action: A Cholera-Free Hispaniola", the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses, recalled a previous cholera outbreak in Central America.

TAPE: One of the things that is important is that we have commitment – a strong commitment in the region from the very beginning that the focus and the attention and the effort was to eliminate cholera fro the region. A lot of discussion was done and people told us from other regions that once you get cholera back, it's very difficult to put it out. But the countries of the region said no, we are going to clean the continent again and I think that is the major message that we want to pass also for Haiti and Dominican Republic – for the Hispaniola Island – that is of course we need to control, of course we need to reduce the mortality to the CIDA level if possible but we have on the possibility and we have the duty to have our eyes on the elimination of cholera.

NAR: Dr. Roses said the epidemic was eliminated with a good and strong surveillance system and a good investment, continuous investment in water and sanitation.

TAPE: From then on I think the region has seen substantial progress that kept the continent free of cholera. And it's also very important to remember that this was one of the things why water and sanitation became essential in the Millennium Development Goals. Because of the experience the countries in the region pushed a lot for having water and sanitation as one of the MDG's and we have also to remember that recently, we have also celebrated the approval in the UN General Assembly as of the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right. And that is also a commitment that we are also applying to the initiative and the call today.

NAR: According to Dr. Roses, the Pan American Health Organization and its partners were now moving from cholera control to cholera elimination.

TAPE: I think that is one of the key messages. The second one is that investment in water and sanitation and elimination of cholera is almost a prerequisite to think about sustainable development and good investment in economic growth. The vulnerability of the countries – in terms of the economic growth and development without water and sanitation and with these diseases is almost impossible to think. And also the need to bring all the partners together and look at every opportunity of investment to think about water and sanitation in every single sector of the country that we do.


NAR: Director of the Pan American Health Organization Dr. Mirta Roses.

At the same time, the Director of the Centre for Global Health, at the Centre for Disease Control Dr. Kevin De Cock said they have seen first hand the conditions that promote the spread of cholera in Haiti.

TAPE: –a lack of access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene- WASH remains a daily reality for people in both of these countries and this contrast with the progress that Mirta has described in the rest of the Americas over decades and of course it's a barrier to meeting the MDG's for which reckoning will be just in three years from now in 2015. I think we have to remember the fact that people not very far from here have no choice but to resort to unsafe water and open defecation is not only a health hazard, but it is an affront to human dignity. And so it's no surprise that when cholera occurred in Haiti in October 2010, just 10 months after that devastating earthquake, it found fertile ground to develop into one of the largest epidemics of cholera in modern history and because we are where we are –PAHO, Washington, CDC – all of us together, it's also one of the best described epidemics of choler in history.

NAR: Dr. Kevin De Cock, Director of the Centre for Global Health at Centre for Disease Control in the United States.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 5’09″

Filed under Caribbean News.
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