British aid to help fight Haiti cholera epidemic

Britain will supply more than 1,000 medical staff to help fight the worsening cholera epidemic in Haiti, the government announced today.

The infection has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 survivors of an earthquake which ravaged the country earlier this year.

The UK will provide funding for emergency supplies as well as trained medical personnel to help prevent it from spreading across the region, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said.

The announcement follows the latest warning from the UN that up to 400,000 people could be infected by the disease in the next six months - a significant increase on the number predicted two weeks ago.

The British government will fund 115 doctors, 920 nurses and 740 support staff from the region to set up 12 major cholera treatment centres and 60 subsidiary cholera treatment units.

These will be capable of treating several thousand cholera patients over the next two months through £2 million of funding to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).

Beyond the capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti is suffering from a chronic lack of decent water, sanitation and medical supplies.

Mr Mitchell said: "Despite considerable pledges of support to help Haiti, there are still dangerous gaps in the provision of emergency medical supplies and a desperate shortage of trained medical staff, especially in the northern part of the country.

"It is clear much more needs to be done. Analysis from the UN and our own field team reveals that the response needs to be significantly increased if we are to save thousands from the disease.

"We must stop the disease spreading further and trained medical teams and equipment funded by the British taxpayer will bring crucial relief to the devastated country."

The British Government has promised to:

* Supply 340,000 people with clean water and latrines in northern Haiti . These will be delivered by Oxfam through a £1.9 million grant.

* Provide public health and water supplies improvements to 231,000 people across the north-east of Haiti through a £1 million grant to child poverty organisation Plan International.

* Support action across the Caribbean, including the British Overseas Territories, to prepare for any possible spread of the epidemic beyond Haiti.

* Ensure the region is fully prepared for any spread of the epidemic by providing £765,000 for PAHO's regional preventative planning and surveillance work.

The outbreak of cholera, which causes acute watery diarrhoea and can be fatal if left untreated, came after the seven-magnitude earthquake on January 12 left hundreds of thousands of people injured and homeless.

Around 220,000 were killed amid the devastation and more than a million survivors moved into crowded temporary camps in Port-au-Prince.

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