UN appeals for Haiti cholera aid to avoid being ‘overrun’


GENEVA: The United Nations on Friday appealed for nearly 164 million dollars in aid to tackle cholera in Haiti and avoid being “overrun” by the growing epidemic.
“We hope we can get this otherwise all our efforts will be overrrun by the epidemic,” said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Byrs said UN, other aid agencies and Haiti’s health ministry needed 163.8 million dollars for a strategy to stifle the sudden epidemic, which has infected more than 11,000 people and killed 724 since last month.
The strategy drawn up by the UN “anticipates up to 200,000 people to show symptoms of cholera ranging from cases of mild diarrhoea to the most severe dehydration” over a period of about six months, OCHA and the World Health Organisation said.
They were unable to say how many people had experienced such broad symptoms in quake torn and impoverished Haiti over the past six months. “We urgently need medical staff, trained nurses… and to ramp up medical supplies,” said Byrs.
The UN hopes that the response will be as swift as the one that helped dampen the sudden appearance of cholera in the Caribbean country for the first time in about a century.
“The government and the international community responded very swiftly and efficiently to the outbreak, the response has prevented many deaths,” Byrs told journalists.
OCHA warned that the sheer quantity of relief items that need to be delivered over the coming weeks meant that more financial and logistical support was needed.
The WHO said the death rate had been “relatively stable” in the outbreak although at high levels, mainly down to the vulnerability of Haitians to the bacterial infection, which is carried by contaminated water.”No one alive in Haiti has experienced cholera before,” said WHO spokesman Gregory Haertl.