UN blasts response to Haiti appeal

Less than 10 per cent of requested funds raised amid warning cholera deaths will rise sharply if money not sent soon.

    About 20,000 people have been treated in hospitals for the diarrheal disease [AFP]

    The UN has said that the international response to the organisation's appeal to collect $164m to help combat Haiti's growing cholera epidemic has been "completely inadequate".

    The organisation's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that so far it had received only $5m of the total amount the UN had appealed to governments for a week ago to fight the outbreak.

    Nigel Fisher, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator in the country, said: "While we are very grateful for the contributions received so far, both cash and in-kind, so far we only have received less than 10 per cent of what we need.

    "Critical supplies and skills are urgently needed. We need doctors, nurses, water purification systems, chlorine tablets, soap, oral rehydration salts, tents for cholera treatment centres and a range of other supplies."

    In just over a month, the epidemic has spread to eight of the country's 10 provinces and about 20,000 people have been treated in hospitals for the diarrheal disease, which can kill in hours through dehydration if not treated quickly.

    If people are treated early, they can be easily saved, experts say, adding that speed of response is crucial.

    'Vulnerable people'

    Imogen Wall, a spokeswoman for the OCHA in Port-au-Prince, the capital, said that the response had been "completely inadequate" and that funds and supplies were badly needed.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Wall said: "I think we still need to make people understand how serious this is.

    "We're looking at potentially up to 200,000 cases in a country that cannot cope, a population with no resistance, a health profession that doesn't know how to deal with this.

    "I think it's just very hard to make people understand just how serious it is and vulnerable these people are to a terrible but very, very treatable disease."

    Al Jazeera's Cath Turner, reporting from Port-au-Prince, said that while the ravages of the epidemic are not yet apparent in the country's capital, the rural areas, which are harder to access by medical workers, have been hit hard by cholera.

    The response has also been impeded by recent violence in Cap Haitien, where most of the response to the outbreak has been suspended for the past four days.

    The UN has seen a better response to its appeal for aid after January's earthquake in Haiti, with roughly 66 per cent of the $1.5bn needed raised.

    The epidemic has already claimed nearly 1,250 lives throughout Haiti, where the UN response plan has focused on the need to improve water quality and sanitation and on building specialised cholera treatment centres.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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