Members of U.S. Congress urge (Susan) Rice to organize support for UN cholera initiative
Statement by the office of John Conyers Jr., United States Congressman
Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Contact: Andrew Schreiber – 202-225-6906
(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and four 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 ensure full funding and speedy implementation of a new initiative aimed at eliminating cholera in Haiti.
This letter follows a letter sent last July, in which Conyers and 103 other Members of Congress encouraged Rice to urge the United Nations to take a leading role in addressing the cholera crisis.
The Members specifically argued that every effort should be made to ensure the cholera initiative is funded adequately and implemented without delay:
“We are, however, concerned that nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself. The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded and we need your assistance in ensuring that cholera is indeed eliminated from the island of Hispaniola."
The Members also ask that every effort be made to ensure that assistance is prioritized for vulnerable Haitians and that “local communities and organizations be closely consulted during the implementation process.”
The letter was also signed by Representatives Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL). The full text of the letter is below.
February 19, 2013
To: 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 Secretary Rice:
We are writing to thank you for your efforts to organize a robust international response to the cholera crisis in Haiti and to urge you to ensure that the United Nations continues to take a leading role in addressing the crisis by funding and implementing the cholera elimination initiative organized by the UN Secretary General without delay. We believe that it is paramount that the plan prioritize assistance for the most vulnerable Haitians, help the Haitian government attain the capacity necessary to maintain the plan’s infrastructure sustainably, and that local communities and organizations be closely consulted during the implementation process.
As you know, the cholera epidemic continues to pose a major challenge to Haiti’s health authorities, and continues to kill Haitians at an alarming rate. While the significant actions of Haitian authorities and international actors – including $95 million in emergency support by the United States – have helped reduce fatality rates significantly, cholera was still responsible for the deaths of 900 people last year. This past December, 193 Haitians died of cholera, a 190 percent increase in fatalities compared to December of 2011.
In November of last year, the media reported that a plan to eliminate cholera in Haiti was being developed jointly by the Haitian government and international and U.S. agencies. The plan apparently places major emphasis on helping Haiti acquire adequate water and sanitation infrastructure, widely considered to be the only effective means of ridding Haiti of cholera. News reports suggested that the plan was on the verge of being launched, but many weeks later there is still no sign that implementation of the plan has begun.
Although the United Nations has failed to take formal responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti, it is clear that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has taken important steps. We thank you for the key role you and your staff played in encouraging the Secretary General’s office to adopt an initial set of significant measures.
We are, however, concerned that nearly two months after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced his initiative to support the plan, only 10 percent of the funding has been secured and only one percent of this funding has been pledged from the United Nations itself. The United Nations has a special responsibility to ensure this plan is funded and we need your assistance in ensuring that cholera is indeed eliminated from the island of Hispaniola.
As you know, the cholera situation in Haiti has generated worldwide concern. Over 28,000 people from around the world have signed an on-line petition urging the Secretary General “to lead international efforts to mobilize the funds and technical resources required to achieve this urgent task in the shortest time frame possible.” In order for the United Nations to maintain its credibility around the world, it must get this right. This means a fully funded initiative that focuses on marginalized populations and is implemented with the input of local communities and organizations.
All too often important development projects for Haiti are launched with much fanfare, but then are never executed or are quickly abandoned. This cannot be allowed to happen with the current plans to assist Haiti in eliminating cholera. Without effective follow-through on these plans, Haiti will be burdened with this deadly epidemic for the foreseeable future. If these plans are effectively executed, however, the payback is enormous: not only will the country be finally able to control cholera and other water-borne diseases; it will also finally achieve the basic standards of health and hygiene enjoyed by nearly every other nation of this hemisphere.
We therefore respectfully reiterate our request for you to continue urging the Secretary General and other key U.N. actors to take action to rid Haiti of cholera as quickly as possible. We also request that you provide Congress with regular updates on the status of the plan to eliminate cholera, and on the process by which the U.N. is ensuring that the plan will be adequately funded.