According to campaigners accusing the global community of again failing the Caribbean nation. Haitians battling cholera blamed on United Nations peacekeepers are getting little support with only two percent of promised funds materializing, Haiti was free of cholera until 2010 when peacekeepers helping after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people accidentally dumped infected sewage into a river.
Since then about 9,750 Haitians have died of the waterborne disease that has infected more than 800,000 people, with the epidemic continuing to affect dozens of people every week. The United Nations has not accepted legal responsibility for the outbreak but in late 2016 outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologized to Haiti for the organization's role and announced a $400 million fund to help affected Haitians.
The spotlight on the failure to eradicate cholera comes after the United Nations, and aid organizations have faced criticism for slow reconstruction efforts in Haiti due to a lack of coordination and bypassing the government and businesses. The behaviour of aid workers in Haiti after the earthquake has also come under scrutiny with Oxfam rocked by allegations that staff, including a former Haiti country director, used prostitutes during the relief mission.
Cholera is currently infecting about 74 more people each week although this is down from 18,500 at the outbreak's peak. Cholera expert Louise Ivers, executive director of the Centre for Global Health at the Massachusetts General Hospital said it was not enough to say things had improved since 2010. "This has been one the biggest cholera epidemics in recent history, and we are into the eighth year," said Ivers, a doctor who led cholera response efforts during the outbreak in Haiti as head of mission for medical charity Partners In Health.
"Epidemics go down because people have had the disease, they have some natural immunity now." The U.N. fund envisions a two-track process. The first track would focus on eradicating cholera and building infrastructure for sanitation and clean water. The second is described as "a package of material assistance and support to those most affected by the disease" which Ban described as a "concrete expression of the regret of our organization for the suffering so many Haitians have endured."
The United Nations did not provide details about what this would entail or look like on the ground but said it planned to carry out similar work in at about 140 more communities. However, Ivers said some Haitians feel they have been excluded from the U.N. consultation process which had led to street protests over the past year.
Merope-Synge said the cholera outbreak had left thousands of families struggling to rebuild their lives with little support. Families lost breadwinners that have plunged them further into poverty; people took on debt to buried loved ones. All these very real financial consequences.