A cholera epidemic such as we are seeing in Haïti is inexcusable in a 21st century world. History has proven that these diseases can be controlled and eradicated through a public health policy which allows competent staff to provide basic services and clean drinking water. Separate sewage and drinking water systems are not rocket science. They are not even expensive – bearing in mind that even one life lost to impure water is too high a price.
It is no surprise that our Public Services International members were outraged to learn that most of the governments and institutions pledging assistance to Haïti in the wake of the earthquake have in fact failed to deliver. According to the United Nations, less than 20 per cent of the promised assistance for 2010 had been provided at the time of the cholera outbreak. Only four countries had delivered any money at all. Severe pressure should be applied on all the governments in question to honour their pledges to Haïti.
Under these stark conditions, members of our affiliated Haïtian union the CTSP provide healthcare, water, sanitation and related services. Fighting what seem like insurmountable obstacles with insufficient resources, often facing the trauma and anger of their fellow citizens, they have still been able to provide not for profit services to people according to their needs. Working with local community groups and organisations, public sector workers continue to show care, compassion, dedication and professionalism.
Serving the immediate needs arising from the epidemic is a part of our mission. But it does not begin or end there. The cholera tragedy brings into an uncomfortably sharp focus the importance of public services that are affordable and accessible to all.
Quality health care, clean water and effective sanitation are human rights. A system must be built that ensures publicly-provided safe drinking water, effective sanitation and quality health care for all. There is no substitute or alternative to this. A better Haïti is possible – a country that is built on a foundation of quality public services. Working hand in hand with CTSP, our mission is to make this vision a reality – a fight for life itself.