European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Cholera Outbreak in Haiti
Press Conference at the Berlaymont
Brussels, 18 November 2010
The Commission is deeply concerned by the deterioration of the cholera situation in Haiti. The number of casualties and hospitalized cases has rapidly increased during the last week.
Most of the country is now affected. The epidemic is spreading at an alarming rate in the capital Port-au-Prince where slums, such as Cite Soleil, are prone to contagion.
The fatality rate continues to be disproportionately high in many places, particularly in the north. Epidemiologists anticipate that the outbreak will continue to spread throughout the country requiring resources to be mobilized for at least six months.
The public health system is increasingly overwhelmed despite substantial support from the international community.
To respond to needs of cholera patients, 30 cholera treatment centres (CTCs) (with estimated bed capacity of 1,600-2,000 beds) and 27 cholera treatment units (CTUs) to complement Cholera Treatment Centres are operational across the country as well as a number of rehydration stations where oral rehydration salts are distributed.
In the last week, the Commission has reinforced its humanitarian presence in Haiti with relevant medical expertise.
The Commission has mobilised 12 Million € to support DG ECHO partners present in Haiti. The European Mechanism for Civil Protection, the MIC, has also been activated and has already co-financed the transport of in-kind assistance provided by France.
We are focusing on:
saving lives through prompt treatment of those affected;
increasing access to clean water and promoting better hygiene behaviour;
raising awareness among the population and with the authorities on how cholera is spreading and can be prevented. This is particularly important in a country that had not faced cholera before and with high levels of illiteracy.
Last but not least, we are supporting epidemiological surveillance in order to know where and how the epidemic is evolving.
Experts from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) have been deployed to assess the best way to reinforce epidemiological surveillance in Haiti.
A humanitarian and civil protection team from the Commission is being deployed in Haiti.
I have been in contact with the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator and head the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA), Baroness Amos.
I fully support her in stressing the importance of allowing national and international aid workers to continue life-saving activities without disruption.
After the recent incidents related to civil unrest in Cap Haitien, we are following closely the security situation with our partners and the relevant UN agencies, particularly ahead of the Presidential elections of 28 November.
Baroness Amos confirmed that the incidents have not prevented humanitarian workers to access the people affected by the cholera, and my own team confirms me that we can continue to operate in the country.
However, with elections coming soon, we will need to remain vigilant and make sure that humanitarian workers can continue to do their job safely.
Considering the serious and rapid deterioration of the cholera situation, further contributions are urgently required to fill gaps in health, water, sanitation, hygiene and logistics.
Priorities include medical personnel and other personnel specialized in water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as medical supplies, beds, water purification units and tablets.
I am therefore in contact with the Belgian Presidency and the Member States to encourage further EU support to help Haiti in this very critical and difficult moment. EU support can be channelled through the MIC.
Relentless efforts of Haitian and international aid workers to meet the current challenges on the ground are commendable.
However, it is clear that the sheer scale of the crisis requires even more assets and resources in order to avoid a major humanitarian disaster.
We are therefore now working hard on stepping up our emergency response together with our partners, but difficult times are certainly ahead due to the rapidly evolving situation.
The continued solidarity of the international community with the Haitian people remains absolutely essential.