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Andrus Takes Cholera Call to Action to Capitol Hill

Dr. Jon Andrus, Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), appeared at the U.S. Capitol on January 24th to brief members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Haiti Advocacy Working Group on the recent Call to Action for a Cholera-Free Hispaniola, sponsored by PAHO/WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF, in conjunction with the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Launched at PAHO headquarters on Jan. 11, the Call to Action seeks support for major investments in water and sanitation infrastructure to bring an end to the cholera epidemic that has affected both countries.

The presence of cholera is a major obstacle to Haiti’s efforts to “build back better” after the January 2010 earthquake, Andrus told his audience. “It is an obstacle to economic development. It is an obstacle to private investment in Haiti. Cholera kills, often killing in a just matter of hours. Cholera in Haiti threatens job growth.” Andrus said that cholera in Haiti, which is currently producing some 200 new cases per day, also represents a public health threat to the rest of the Caribbean and to the Americas as a whole.

“The 2-year anniversary of the earthquake provides us an incredible opportunity to refocus all our national and international efforts on eliminating cholera transmission from the whole island of Hispaniola,” said Andrus.

The call for major investments in water and sanitation is supported by the region’s experience in the 1990s, when a cholera outbreak in Peru spread to 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Over the next eight years, support from the international community, including aggressive investments in water and sanitation infrastructure, led to the virtual elimination of epidemic cholera from Central and South America. It took time, but no one lost sight of the target to eliminate cholera in Latin America at that time,” Andrus said.

He called for three areas of work:

  1. Creating a high-level alliance, expanding the Jan. 11 partnership, that will prioritize water and sanitation infrastructure development and support an action plan going forward.
  2. creating a high-level alliance to support an action plan, including PAHO, CDC, UNICEF, and other
  3. Honoring post-earthquake funding pledges and recruiting new partners.

Today’s briefing, when included a panel of experts, was part of a three-day series of events hosted by the Haiti Advocacy Working Group and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus to raise awareness about issues related to U.S.–Haiti Policy.

On Jan. 11, the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic joined representatives of PAHO, UNICEF, and the CDC in launching the Call to Action for a Cholera-Free Hispaniola in a press conference at PAHO headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in simultaneous events in the Haitian and Dominican capitals.



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