U.N. Can Help End Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

Partners In Health Urges Organization to Devote More Resources to Controlling the Spread of the Disease


Contact: Jeff Marvin, Media Relations Manager

BOSTON (August 19, 2016)—Following a United Nations acknowledgement that it played a role in the initial outbreak of the devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti, Partners In Health (PIH) and Zanmi Lasante (ZL), its sister organization in Haiti, are calling on the organization to devote substantial resources to controlling the spread of the deadly disease in that country.

PIH has been at the forefront of organizations calling on the United Nations to help solve a crisis that it played a role in starting in 2010. The epidemic has led to almost 10,000 registered deaths and sickened hundreds of thousands, many of whom have been cared for at PIH and ZL facilities in Haiti.

“We appreciate that the United Nations has taken what we consider to be a critical step forward in the fight against cholera in Haiti,” said Partners In Health CEO Dr. Gary Gottlieb, who has been in Haiti this week. “We look forward to the new response the U.N. plans to unveil, and we continue to call on the organization to devote additional resources to stop cholera from claiming more lives in Haiti.”

PIH and ZL have mobilized thousands of community health workers, opened cholera treatment wards and launched sanitation and hygiene initiatives, among other efforts, to contain the spread of the disease. In 2012, despite skepticism from aid agencies and global public health organizations, PIH and ZL, with GHESKIO in Port-au-Prince, led a campaign that vaccinated more than 45,000 patients and proved effective for slowing the spread of cholera. Since then, the Haitian Ministry of Health, with the support of their partners, administered the vaccine to hundreds of thousands more citizens. In addition, ZL, with the support of UNICEF, has helped construct over 1,000 household toilets and improved hundreds of water points.

“Our efforts in Haiti are built on a cholera-fighting strategy that has become the global standard, but the resources to implement our strategy are critically low,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, senior health and policy advisor and an infectious disease expert at Partners In Health, who leads the organization’s cholera treatment and prevention activities. “The U.N. has a responsibility to be a leader in resolving this problem that they helped to start. They should finance a national plan to eliminate transmission of the disease through vaccination and household water treatment and invest in long-term water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti. This would go a long way toward making amends.”

Click here to read a paper published by Dr. Ivers and colleagues in The Lancet Global Health about the efficacy of the Haitian vaccination campaign.