CARIBWORLDNEWS, WASHINGTON, D.C., FRI. NOV. 19, 2010: The United State yesterday pledged to invest in the health system on a long term basis as the Caribbean nation continues to battle a cholera epidemic. The death toll from the disease has now reached 1,100 as of Thursday with 18,000 cases reported.
The outbreak has now spread to seven of the country`s 10 administrative regions, known as departments, the Pan American Health Organization said.
The U.S.` Special Coordinator for Haiti, Thomas C. Adams, in an on-the-record briefing at the State Department yesterday, said the Obama administration is `going to invest a lot of money in the health system over the next five years.` He did not reveal an amount in dollars and cents but added that the administration has already started working on several parts of the system.
But Adams stressed that the immediate focus is in fighting the epidemic.
For his part, USAID Acting Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Mark Ward expressed confidence in the efforts that the government of Haiti has undertaken in treating the disease so far.
`I mean, the government response has been very good, very strong. The Ministry of Health responded immediately,` he said. `They asked us to set up treatment centers in Port-au-Prince, and they identified the sites rapidly. They have worked on their messaging. There`s a lot of messages going out. President Preval has gone around the country telling people to take steps, to seek treatment. And so the government has done very well, helped by international partners, PAHO, and the other countries in on this.`
OFDA has provided about $9 million and committed about $9 million so far while other countries like Brazil, the European Union, Spain and Japan are also pitching in.
The UN has called for nearly $164 million US to assist with the cholera outbreak. The European Commission said Thursday that European nations should send Haiti a whole range of medical supplies, not just money, to fight the cholera outbreak.
The commission said there is a great need for medical skills, beds, epidemiological expertise, antibiotics, intravenous catheters, body bags, water purification tablets, rehydration salts and ambulances.
Ward again reiterated the message of many experts – that clean drinking water is critical. Dr. Manoj Menon from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention also revealed that the laboratory capacity and the epidemiological surveillance in Haiti is heightened now, post-earthquake, through the help of partners but he said it`s very difficult to determine where the strain of the cholera organism affecting Haitians came from, how it got there, what the origin was.
`We will never know that answer,` he added.
His comments come as protests continued yesterday in the earthquake shattered capital of Port-Au-Prince, days after rioting in northern Haiti over suspicions that UN soldiers introduced the cholera epidemic into the country.
Protesters in Port-Au-Prince yesterday lashed out at United Nations peacekeepers and the government, blocking roads and attacking foreigners` vehicles while others set up burning barricades.
Haitian police responded with tear gas. The growing protest comes a week before national elections.