MIAMI — Five months after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promised to "use every opportunity" to push for funding to eliminate cholera from Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic, government officials in both nations are still waiting on donors to open their wallets.
The feet-dragging comes as the rainy season begins and a new French study says the disease could quickly be eliminated from Haiti if investments are made to restrain transmissions.
"Cholera is only shrinking and has not yet disappeared. But it can disappear if the fight is correctly managed," said Dr. Renaud Piarroux, who has studied the deadly waterborne disease in Haiti since it first appeared in October 2010.
Piarroux's study first came to light last week when Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe was asked at Columbia University about the government's plan to combat cholera. But he mischaracterized the report's findings when he stated that "cholera right now is disappearing" from Haiti and the country is seeing less than three cases a day.
Lamothe's Ministry of Health statistics show an average of 150 cholera cases a day so far this year. Lamothe's comments triggered a debate in Haiti about whether the government was downplaying the seriousness of the epidemic. He later backed off the statement when asked by The Miami Herald for clarification.
"This isn't a sign of cholera's disappearance but rather its persistence, and the reasons are simple — funding for the cholera response has greatly declined, and the response capacity has therefore diminished," said Jake Johnston, international research associate and lead blogger on Haiti's relief and reconstruction for the Center for Economic and Policy Research.