Sustaining Intensified Response to Haiti Cholera Outbreak Key to Saving Lives, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly, as Number of Cases Falls

DSG/SM/1063-GA/11921
14 June 2017

Sustaining Intensified Response to Haiti Cholera Outbreak Key to Saving Lives, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly, as Number of Cases Falls

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the General Assembly meeting on Haiti, in New York today:

Thank you for coming together again in a spirit of solidarity, respect and support for the people of Haiti.

You will all recall that, last December, then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put forward a “new approach to cholera in haiti” to demonstrate the Organization’s commitment to the elimination of the disease.  He also apologized to the Haitian people on behalf of the United Nations stating that the Organization simply had not done enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti, and that it was profoundly sorry for its role.

The new approach has two tracks.  Track 1 involves intensifying the Organization’s efforts in order to reduce and ultimately end the transmission of cholera, improve access to care and treatment, and address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems in Haiti.  Track 2 is a package that will provide material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera.

The new plan, and the expression of contrition, generated considerable goodwill in Haiti, as did the expression by Member States of their full support for the new approach in General Assembly resolution 71/161 adopted that same month.

Now, the United Nations must demonstrate its commitment to implementation of the new approach or risk dissipating that goodwill, needlessly heightening the suffering of the people of Haiti and incurring further reputational damage to the Organization.

Secretary-General António Guterres is strongly committed to taking forward the new approach.  However, he needs the full support of the Membership in order to do so.  United Nations action requires Member State action.   We cannot fail the people of Haiti at this critical moment.  We cannot leave Haiti behind.

It is my pleasure to present to you today the latest report of the Secretary-General on the new approach to cholera in Haiti.  It provides an update on the incidence of suspected cholera cases and on the further development and implementation of the new approach.

We continue to work closely with the Government of Haiti in this effort, and in the wider campaign to support the Government in moving firmly and irreversibly onto the long-term path towards the Sustainable Development Goals and a future of prosperity and dignity for all.

Haitian officials and the Haitian public at large are telling us that the intensification of efforts to eliminate cholera from Haiti is absolutely vital.  In the weeks following Hurricane Matthew last October, the number of suspected cholera cases increased.  Since then, however, the number of suspected cases has declined significantly.  Today, the number of cases is at its lowest level since 2014.  This decline is the direct result of the intensified cholera response and control efforts that comprise Track 1A of the new approach.  As of 27 May of this year, the Haiti Ministry of Health had reported 6,762 suspected cases, compared to 16,822 at the same time last year.

The year 2017 is crucial to the success of Track 1A.  It is imperative to sustain the intensified cholera response and control efforts in order to save lives and further reduce the number of suspected cholera cases.  If the number of suspected cases in 2017 can be reduced to less than 25 per cent of the total in 2016, that could be a tipping point for the control of cholera in 2018.

All aspects of the national elimination plan must be maintained and accelerated so as not to lose momentum, and to consolidate the investment and gains over the past 12 months.  That means action on many fronts, including rapid response at the community level, health-care treatment and accelerated WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] improvements in “hotspots” throughout 2017 and 2018, and vaccination.

We must also improve laboratory surveillance, clinical diagnosis and case treatment.  Sustaining these intensified efforts is especially important in order to get through the upcoming rainy season without a spike in the number of suspected cholera cases.

The vaccination campaign being carried out by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is well advanced, and is expected to reach 85 per cent of the 700,000 target by the end of this month.  The next campaign, scheduled for the last quarter of 2017, aims to vaccinate 2.6 million people in the country’s most vulnerable areas.

Sustaining these efforts requires resources.  Track 1A cannot succeed without the necessary funding.  Indeed, financing is a key challenge across the entire new approach.  As you know, the envisaged financial assistance amounts to around $400 million over two years, divided between Tracks 1 and 2.  In February of this year, the Secretary-General wrote to all Member States asking them to declare their intentions with respect to voluntary contributions for the new approach.

As set out in the report, as of 20 April, voluntary contributions to the United Nations Cholera Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund totalled approximately $2.7 million from seven Member States.  I commend and would like to cite by name those states that have responded:  Chile, France, India, Liechtenstein, the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.  The Fund has also received approximately $17,000 from United Nations staff members and private donors.

These contributions have been used to finance three projects approved by the Chair and Advisory Committee of the Trust Fund:  two by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and PAHO/WHO relating to Track 1A, and one community project by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) relating to Track 2.  Details are set out in the Secretary-General’s report, and implementation is under way.

However, these three projects, which together cost $2.5 million, have depleted almost all of the Trust Fund, which now has just $183,000.  No new contributions have been received.  Outside of the Trust Fund, two Member States, Canada and Japan, committed nearly $7 million for Track 1A.

All of these contributions are very welcome, and I thank those Member States for their financial support and staff for their expression of solidarity.

Without additional resources, the intensified cholera response and control efforts cannot be sustained through 2017 and 2018.  That would lead to further suffering and would be a significant setback to the goal of eliminating cholera in Haiti.  Moreover, there are no more funds available for Track 2 of the new approach, which is a concrete expression of the regret of our Organization and is meant to address the suffering that so many Haitians have endured.

We propose to take a community approach and establish priorities for projects in consultation with victims and their families and communities.

With that in mind, the United Nations Haiti Cholera Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund recently approved an expenditure of $500,000 for a symbolic project in Mirebalais, where the outbreak began.  Those resources are being provided for consultations and the implementation of projects in Mirebalais, as well as for a broader mapping of key cholera actors in other affected communities.

This project provides some degree of momentum on Track 2.  It aims to give Member States a sense of what community projects can achieve.  However, without an assurance of funding, it would be counterproductive to engage in consultations in other localities that have little chance of delivering.  Further funding is critical if Track 2, a vital component of the new approach, is to be implemented.

The Secretary-General proposes to address the need for resources in several ways.  First, we will soon be announcing the appointment of a high-level envoy to develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy to seek additional voluntary contributions from Member States and other sources.  Second, the Secretary-General and I will continue to use our own interactions with world leaders to urge them to provide further voluntary financial and other appropriate support.

Third, as reflected in the Secretary-General’s report, he has asked Member States to consider voluntarily waiving the return of the 2015-2016 unencumbered balances and credits from miscellaneous income and adjustments from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the United Nations peacekeeping operation, and instead direct them to the Trust Fund.  Those balances total $40.5 million and could have a direct and immediate impact in saving lives in Haiti.  The Secretary-General envisages those funds going equally to Track 1 and Track 2.

The results of the new approach to date have been positive.  The intensified cholera response and control efforts are reducing the transmission of cholera.  The Secretary-General is confident that the package of material assistance and support will alleviate the impacts of cholera and complement the other work under the new approach.  But, without your political will and financial support, we have only good intentions and words.

In closing, I wish to reaffirm the moral responsibility of the United Nations to the people of Haiti.  The Secretary-General and I appeal to you to come forward with the resources needed to bring the new approach to life.  Let us work together to do what is right.

For information media. Not an official record.