CWS welcomes yesterday’s acknowledgement by the UN of its role in the tragic introduction of cholera into Haiti. This admission came just weeks after CWS helped organize an historic letter in which 158 Members of Congress wrote Secretary of State John Kerry urging swift action. In his public statement, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, admitted that the UN “needed to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera”. Although falling short of accepting full responsibility for the outbreak, the statement reverses the UN’s previous policy of outright denial which for six years impugned its credibility and angered many in Haiti. It also now opens up possibilities for urgently needed and fresh action on what has since become the world’s worst cholera epidemic.
In recent years, through its advocacy and programs, CWS has scaled up its efforts to safeguard the human right to clean, safe water. We have built cisterns to address storage issues in some of Haiti’s most water deprived area. We continue to work with community groups to build their capacity to manage water resources in the context of increasing – often punishing – drought. Cholera is easily preventable but requires nation-wide scale of response and a strong injection of resources. Both directly and in close collaboration with our allies in the Haiti Advocacy Working Group CWS has strongly advocated for for UN accountability and for procedures to prevent the recurrence of this tragedy elsewhere. We have reached out to Congress, met with UN representatives, built awareness through social media and stories, and solicited support from our core constituents. As the UN now promises an updated, new strategic response to address the cholera epidemic within months, we will continue to closely monitor its next steps.
Most importantly, the policy hopefully marks a significant turning point for cholera victims in Haiti who have lost 10,000 relatives and more, and seen thousands relatives and friends become ill. Thousands still require support to prevent infection. CWS fervently hopes that this announcement heralds the beginning of the end of cholera for Haiti’s poorest communities.