Congresswoman Waters Urges United Nations to Commit Resources to Eradicate Cholera in Haiti
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), a strong advocate for the Haitian people in the U.S. Congress, sent a letter today to the Honorable Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, expressing concerns about the lack of progress in responding effectively to the Haitian cholera epidemic. The letter urges the Secretary General to use his office and his influence to ensure that the United Nations takes responsibility for the introduction of cholera into Haiti and commits an appropriate level of resources to support cholera response efforts. The letter was signed by 19 Members of Congress. The text of the letter follows:
As congressional friends of the people of Haiti, we are deeply concerned about the lack of progress by the United Nations, given its likely role in the introduction of cholera into Haiti, in responding effectively to the Haitian cholera epidemic.
The cholera epidemic in Haiti is one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history, and it has already taken a devastating toll on the people of Haiti. The Haitian government has estimated that there have been 656,321 cases of cholera and 8,090 deaths from cholera since the epidemic began in October of 2010. The lack of access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure continue to exacerbate the impact of the disease.
There is considerable evidence that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in Haiti, is responsible for introducing cholera into Haiti. The cholera outbreak began shortly after the arrival of a group of MINUSTAH peacekeepers from Nepal, which was already experiencing a cholera outbreak. The first cases of cholera in Haiti appeared near the Artibonite River, just downstream of the Nepalese peacekeepers’ camp, and the strain of cholera that is ravaging Haiti is an exact match to the strain of cholera that was active in Nepal. Prior to this outbreak, there had been no known cases of cholera in Haiti in at least a century.
We are concerned by the United Nations’ rejection of the claims made by 5,000 Haitian cholera victims and families of victims, who sued the United Nations demanding compensation, a public apology, and a nationwide response to the cholera epidemic. Given the evidence, the victims’ demands for compensation and a public apology are not unreasonable, and a nationwide response to the epidemic is long overdue.
We appreciate the United Nations’ December 2012 endorsement of the Hispaniola Initiative, which was launched in January of 2012 by the Presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to improve clean water access, develop sanitation infrastructure and address the cholera epidemic. As you know, the Hispaniola Initiative requires $2.2 billion in funds for Haiti and another $70 million in funds for the Dominican Republic over the next 10 years. However, we are dismayed that the United Nations has committed only $23.5 million for this initiative. That is a mere one percent of the total funding required to fund the initiative in Haiti, alone. It is also less than four percent of the $648 million that the United Nations is spending on MINUSTAH this year. Given the pivotal role that MINUSTAH is believed to have played in the introduction of cholera into Haiti, it is imperative that the United Nations take the lead in responding to the crisis and funding the Hispaniola Initiative.
We therefore urge you to use your office and your influence to ensure that the United Nations takes responsibility for the introduction of cholera into Haiti, commits an appropriate level of resources to support the Hispaniola Initiative, and takes immediate and appropriate action to assist the Haitian government with the implementation of this initiative. We appreciate your attention to our concerns, and we look forward to your response.