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Published:October 22nd, 2010 22:37 EST

UN Responds To Cholera Outbreak In Haiti

By SOP newswire3

22 October 2010 " The humanitarian community has mobilized its resources to help the Haitian Government respond to an outbreak of cholera in the western region of Caribbean country, with medical supplies being provided and teams of health workers rushing to the affected area, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said today.

The point here is that cholera deaths are preventable, and we are doing everything we can to assist the Haitian authorities to prevent further deaths, " Catherine Bragg, Deputy Emergency Coordinator, told a news conference in New York after returning from a visit to Haiti.

Figures provided by the Government indicate that more than 1,500 cases of cholera have been confirmed, with the disease having claimed the lives of 138 people.

Humanitarian agencies already have 300,000 doses of antibiotics in the in country ready for distribution, Ms. Bragg said, stressing that the spread of cholera can also be curbed by improving the availability of clean water, using soap to wash hands before meals, and improving sanitation.

The cholera epidemic has been reported around Saint-Marc in the Artibonite department, far from the camps hosting hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes following the devastating earthquake of 12 January this year.

Some 10,000 boxes of water purification tablets, 2,500 jerry cans, and the same number of buckets and hygiene kits are being distributed in the affected area, the official noted.

On the humanitarian response to the earthquake, Ms. Bragg said that a great deal has been accomplished by the Government, the humanitarian community and their partners.

We are all conscious of the shortcomings of the response and the extremely difficult conditions which many of the earthquake survivors are still living in, but the magnitude of what has been achieved should not be forgotten, " said Ms. Bragg, who also serves as Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

If you go back and look at what we committed to do in the Consolidated Appeal launched 72 hours after the earthquake, and revised three months after that, we have actually done what we set out to do.

All the strategic objectives and targets set for providing life-saving humanitarian assistance have been met, or we are on track to meet them, " she added.

The official pointed out that there have been no major outbreaks of infectious diseases in Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, nor has there been a "second wave` of deaths feared six months ago, when it was thought that the massive displacement might lead to hunger- and exposure-related diseases and other illnesses which would claim many lives.

Unfortunately now we are responding to a cholera outbreak, but we need to note that the healthcare, sanitation and clean water provided since the earthquake have saved many, many lives. Everyone that we planned to provide food aid to has been reached, " Ms. Bragg said.

However, she stressed that a lot more needs to be done, with truly awful " conditions in some of the camps.

We should expect a significant humanitarian operation is still going to be needed in Haiti in 2011. Recovery efforts have to be accelerated to phase out the humanitarian work, but given the amount that still needs to happen in terms of rehabilitating housing, removing rubble, and re-establishing basic services in areas people are returning to, even in the best case this is not going to happen overnight, " she said.

In a related development, Walter Kälin, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon`s Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), today identified some of the challenges facing earthquake survivors living in camps in Haiti, including gender-based violence and evictions by the owners of the land where some of the sites area situated.

Mr. Kälin, who also recently visited Haiti, told reporters in New York that overall, people in camps felt more secure " with police patrols reaching about 40 percent of the population in the settlements.

On IDPs in Iraq, he highlighted the plight of people in squatter settlements in the capital, Baghdad, and other cities, who he said are living on the fringes of society " with little humanitarian assistance.

He was, however, encouraged by the Government of Iraq`s assurance to him that it was making arrangements to solve the problem of the IDPs by allocating them land to settle on.