- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Are the Haitian victims of cholera “collateral damage” caused by inaction? More than 1,000 Haitians have already been killed and nearly a quarter-million more could contract cholera over the next several months.

Death rates from cholera stand at 6.5 percent, nearly double the rate of other developing countries dealing with similar outbreaks. The numbers of those affected by cholera in Haiti are predicted to be twice that of the outbreak in Zimbabwe last year that killed more than 4,000.

Despite these chilling statistics, it is the lack or coordinated response from the United States and other donor nations that is perhaps the most difficult to comprehend. Some $3.4 billion in humanitarian aid has already been sent to Haiti. But why is it taking so long to be put to use? Where is it going? Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical in reducing the impact of cholera and other waterborne diseases. On Nov. 12, the United Nations requested another $164 million from charities and donors to help fight Haiti’s cholera outbreak. We need to ensure that this money is put to use on the basics: soap and clean water.

I am not surprised that violent protests between Haitians and U.N. peacekeepers have recently broken out - Haitians are wondering why so much money has been pledged and necessities such as clean water are still out of reach of their people.

We can help the Haitians take one step forward - but we must start to be proactive instead of continuing our unsuccessful reactive and uncoordinated approach. The technology and knowledge of how to help prevent cholera is available. We just need the will to use it.

TODD BURNS

Arlington, Va.

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