News: Press Releases

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and 103 other Members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, encouraging her to urge the United Nations to take a leading role in addressing the cholera crisis in Haiti.

 

The cholera outbreak began in 2010, ten months after Haiti’s tragic earthquake, and “has become one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history” according to the Pan-American Health Organization.  To date, at least 7,200 Haitians have died from the disease and more than 530,00 people have been infected.    

 

“As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic,” they write. “UN authorities should work with Haiti’s government and the international community to confront and, ultimately, eliminate this deadly disease from Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola.  A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti and will pose a permanent public health threat to the populations of neighboring nations.” 

The letter was also signed by Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), James Moran (D-VA), Ed Towns (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Pete Stark (D-CA), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Corrine Brown (D-FL), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Hansen Clarke (D-MI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Michael Honda (D-CA), Lacy Clay (D-MO), John Lewis (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), John Olver (D-MA), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Bob Filner (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), William Keating (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Sam Farr (D-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), John Tierney (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bennie Thompson (D-GA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Al Green (D-TX), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Barney Frank (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), Rosa Delauro (D-CT), Jared Polis (D-CO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Gene Green (D-TX), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Peter Defazio (D-OR), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), David Cicilline (D-RI), Andre Carson (D-IN), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Ron Kind (D-WI), Lucille Royal-Allard (D-CA), David Price (D-NC), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Robert Brady (D-PA), James Langevin (D-RI), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-WA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Brian Higgins (D-NY), James Himes (CT), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), and Cedric Richmond (D-LA)

The text of the letter follows below.

 July 17, 2012

 

The Honorable Susan Rice

United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Permanent Mission to the United Nations

799 UN Plaza

New York, NY 10017-3505

 Dear Ambassador Rice,

 

We are writing to express our deep concern regarding the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti and to ask you to strongly encourage the United Nations to take a leadership role in addressing this catastrophic public health crisis.  The outbreak began in October 2010, ten months after Haiti’s tragic earthquake, and “has become one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history” according to the Pan-American Health Organization.  To date, at least 7,200 Haitians have died from the disease and more than 530,000 people have been infected.  So as to ensure that this devastating disease is brought under control, we call on you to urge UN authorities to support efficient treatment and prevention of the epidemic and to help Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure.

 

As acknowledged by the UN’s Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, UN troops introduced the cholera bacterium “into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians” and, as such, were the “proximate cause” of the epidemic.   We welcome your statement in March to the Secu­rity Coun­cil calling on the United Nations to “redou­ble its efforts to pre­vent any fur­ther inci­dents of this kind and to ensure that those respon­si­ble are held accountable.” 

 

As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic. UN authorities should work with Haiti’s government and the international community to confront and, ultimately, eliminate this deadly disease from Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola.  A failure to act will not only lead to countless more deaths: it will undermine the crucial effort to reconstruct Haiti and will pose a permanent public health threat to the populations of neighboring nations. 

 

According to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Haiti is one of the most underserved countries in the world in terms of water and sanitation infrastructure. These infrastructural weaknesses have made Haiti particularly susceptible to water-borne disease. Cholera had not been present in Haiti for over a century prior to October 2010, making Haitians ‘immunologically naïve’ and even more vulnerable to the disease. 

 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has done a remarkable job in partnership with the Haitian government in distributing treatment supplies, providing treatment training, and establishing a national cholera surveillance system. The CDC estimates that cholera will likely persist in Haiti absent the development of water and sanitation systems, the cost of which has been estimated at $800 million to $1.1 billion. 

 

On January 12th of this year, the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, joined by UN agencies PAHO, World Health Organization and UNICEF and the U.S. CDC, appealed to donor countries to honor pledges and provide funds for water and sanitation infrastructure.  However, there has been little response to this appeal from the international community.  Moreover, with the onset of the rainy season, the number of deaths from cholera is rising once again. 

 

Accordingly, we call upon you to urge UN authorities to play a central role in addressing the cholera crisis.  First, by helping ensure that resources are in place to provide adequate treatment and prevention of the disease in the short term. Secondly, by taking the lead in helping Haiti and the rest of the island of Hispaniola acquire the necessary funding to develop the water and sanitation infrastructure needed to effectively control the cholera epidemic. 

 

Finally, we ask that you encourage UN authorities and all donor governments involved in the effort to fight cholera to intensify their cooperation with the Haitian state and people through capacity-building and the active inclusion of government representatives in decision-making and through the regular consultation of civil society actors.

 

Sincerely,