Washington, D.C., 18 September 2012 (PAHO/WHO) – The World Bank, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and WASH Advocates today became the newest members of the Regional Coalition on Water and Sanitation for the Elimination of Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola.
Representatives of the four organizations signed a declaration at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in which they pledged to work together with other coalition members to promote universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation as the key to eliminating cholera from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The coalition’s other members are PAHO/WHO, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Brazil's National Health Foundation (FUNASA), the Association of Haitian Medical Physicians Abroad, and the Inter-American Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (AIDIS).
The coalition was originally launched in June of this year to bring together technical expertise, raise new funds, and mobilize previously committed pledges to support the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in improving access to water and sanitation.
More than half a million people are estimated to have been sickened by cholera in Haiti between October 2010 and mid-September 2012, with more than 7,500 deaths. The Dominican Republic has reported more than 21,000 cases and over 400 deaths from cholera.
PAHO Deputy Director Dr. Jon K. Andrus noted that the "massive response" of the Haitian and Dominican governments on the ground, which was supported by the international community, had significantly reduced the number of new cases and deaths from cholera. However, "in order to stop cholera and be able to build back better, water and sanitation must be ensured," he said.
Even before the 2010 earthquake, only 69% of Haiti’s residents had access to safe drinking water, and access to sanitation had dropped from 26% of the population in 1990 to 17% in 2010. In the Dominican Republic, 86% of the population had access to improved drinking water sources, and 83% had access to improved sanitation in 2010.
In the1990s, a cholera epidemic spread to over 20 countries in Latin America, but investments in water and sanitation infrastructure and health promotion helped stem the epidemic and contributed to the near elimination of cholera from Central and South America within eight years.
The coalition has been supporting the development of a plan of action on water and sanitation in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It will be examined at an October 2 meeting of a special technical advisory group (TAG), which will provide independent technical input for the plan’s improvement.
Dr. Andrus said the declaration signed by the four new coalition partners today represents “a commitment for partners to join and support—to the extent that they can—a long-term strategy to eliminate transmission of cholera from Hispaniola.”
PAHO, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, is the oldest public health organization in the world. It works with all the countries of the Hemisphere to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.