#Haiti : Everyone wants to fight #cholera, but no one can agree on how
There was a vaccine available. Although the cache was not nearly large enough — and still not fully approved by the World Health Organization — Ivers and others appealed to Haitian officials to allow them to distribute the drug.The government said no.“This was a missed opportunity to save lives,” Ivers, who ran a clinic in Haiti for the nonprofit Partners in Health, recalled in a recent interview.Today, the epidemic is seen as a pivotal moment in a dispute over the best way to counter cholera.
On one side are public health advocates, backed by the powerful Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who have been galvanized in their enthusiasm for vaccines. Those vaccines, they believe, can be used to make major strides against a disease that is thousands of years old, easily treated, and entirely preventable.On the other are public health officials who argue that the vaccines are not effective enough and are a Band-Aid diverting attention from the water and sanitation issues that are at the root of cholera.
“This is a disease of poverty,” said Shafiqul Islam, director of the Water Diplomacy Program at Tufts University. “There is a group of people who think vaccines will solve the problem. I don’t think it will.”Experts on both sides acknowledge the disagreement has undermined unity in the fight against cholera. The WHO has tried to straddle the divide by supporting both approaches, without settling how to pay for both.