• UN warns of surge in Haiti cholera deaths

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    UNITED NATIONS: A United Nations (UN) envoy warned on Wednesday that cholera deaths in Haiti will surge and spread to other countries unless more funds are found to battle the epidemic.

    More than 8,330 people have already died from cholera, that started in 2010 and many blame on UN peacekeepers based in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

    But special envoy Pedro Medrano said that legal wrangling over the epidemic has to be put aside in order to tackle the sweeping advance of the disease.

    Medrano said cash is lacking for purification tablets, anti-biotics and staff to keep up a campaign that has cut the number of victims over the past two years.

    If funds are not found before this year’s rainy season starts in May, “we will face a very dark situation.”

    The 65,000 new cases reported in 2013 were the lowest reported yet but still more than 550 people died, according to UN figures.

    Medrano said that unless funds are found the UN estimates that the number of cases could double this year and deaths increase four fold.

    “If we are not prepared to make the investment now, we will have this year perhaps close to 180,000 cases and even up to 2,000 fatalities,” he said.

    The strain of cholera, that originally came from South Asia, has already been reported in Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic with some deaths.

    A single case of cholera in a Peruvian port in the 1990s spread to 18 South American countries and killed 10,000 people, Medrano noted.

    The UN assistant secretary general, who was named to the tough post in October, called for “a Marshall Plan for water and sanitation” in Haiti, a country of 10 million people with a long history of natural disasters and political strife.

    The UN has launched an appeal to raise $2.2 billion dollars for Haiti over the decade. But Medrano said $400 million has to be found over two years to contain the epidemic and build infrastructure to stop a repeat.

    “This is a must and we can’t wait 10 years to have the whole country covered. We need to have a massive investment in water purification, sanitation, toilets,” he said.

    AFP

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