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The Health of the Island of Hispaniola at the Heart of Rio+20

The UN side event at Rio+20 “Water and Sustainable Development: Elimination of Cholera in Hispaniola”, promoted by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), discussed how to increase infrastructure coverage and delivery of water and sanitation services so as to eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The event, which took place Tuesday afternoon (June 19) in downtown Rio de Janeiro, strengthened the Regional Coalition for Water and Sanitation to Eliminate Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola as a support mechanism for the efforts of these two countries and encouraged new partners to join.

According to Dr. Luiz Augusto Galvão, the Area Manager for Sustainable Development and Environmental Health at PAHO/WHO, this event was an appraisal of where we stand on the path toward elimination of cholera.

“I would like to state that this was a very important day on the path of this coalition. We took stock of where we stand and were able to see that both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are making progress”, said Dr. Galvão.

The lack of universal access to water and sanitation in the island of Hispaniola is a growing social, economic, and health issue that has already led to the over 7,150 deaths in Haiti and 403 in the Dominican Republic as the result of a continued cholera epidemic.

“We are now operating in emergency mode, because it is the rainy season and we are trying to save lives”, said Dr. Galvão with respect to patient care and, clearly, the issue of water quality.

From a sustainable development standpoint, the cost of the insufficiency and inappropriateness of the water and sanitation systems and of health education is reflected not only on patient care, but also in a negative impact on the social and economic development and productivity of the population.

PAHO/WHO seeks to strengthen the regional coalition so it can join forces and contribute to the national and bilateral efforts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic toward increasing sustainable coverage of drinking water, delivering high-quality sanitation, and, above all, saving lives in these countries.

The Region of the Americas has achieved considerable progress since "Rio ‘92", with a greater role in the global economy and less poverty. However, it still faces major social and economic gaps that affect the life of its populations.

“We ourselves realized the road we have already traveled toward building this coalition, and we have seen a lot of acceptance, a lot of awareness, a lot of willingness to cooperate. We now hope that, on June 29, the signatures of the World Bank, the IDB, and Funasa will add substance to the coalition, and that over the next six months to one year, we will really be able to count on a stronger, more robust coalition, with resources that can make a difference toward saving lives on the island of Hispaniola”, concluded Dr. Galvão.

Recognizing that health should be at the core of sustainable development means that health affects, and is affected by, social, environmental, and economic conditions. This, in turn, means that failure to combat acute infections and to control chronic noncommunicable diseases is a critical hindrance to sustainable development.

PAHO/WHO urges governments and international organizations to work together to support, by means of technical cooperation and development funding, efforts toward the sustainable achievement of “water and sanitation for all” in the island of Hispaniola to eliminate cholera and other attending problems that ravage these countries of our Region, worsening their scenario of poverty, lack of water, and basic sanitation and impeding access to the fundamental right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.

Founded in 1902, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO). For more information on PAHO/WHO, visitwww.paho.org.

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