Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the world for more funds to fight the cholera epidemic in Haiti that has already killed more than 2,400 people and infected nearly 110,000 others, 55,000 of whom had to be hospitalized.
At the same time, he announced the creation of an independent scientific panel to investigate the source of the outbreak amid widespread media reports that Nepalese peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) are the likely source, with infected water spreading from their base into a nearby tributary of the Artibonite River.
“We need more funding,” Mr. Ban told a news conference in New York yesterday, noting that a $164 million appeal is only 21 per cent funded. “Haiti needs more doctors, nurses, medical supplies, and it needs them urgently… Our first priority continues to be saving lives.”
He said it was crucial to get the message “out, far and wide” that the disease can be managed through early treatment and some clear and simple steps, including washing hands with soap. Cholera is spread by contaminated food and water.
Turning to the controversial issue of the origins of the outbreak, Mr. Ban noted there were several theories, and not all reports reached the same conclusion. MINUSTAH and the Government have conducted a number of tests, but all so far have been negative. The panel will be completely independent and have full access to all UN premises and personnel, he stressed, adding that further details will be provided when it is finalized. “We want to make the best effort to get to the bottom of this and find answers that the people of Haiti deserve,” he said.