Washington, December 7, 1998 - The Central American Ministers of Health have agreed to put into place emergency plans to prevent and combat cholera following Hurricane Mitch and accepted a $1 million offer from the Pan American Health Organization to support the program.
"We have passed the emergency phase, and we are in the reconstruction phase," Dr. George Alleyne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization said to the health authorities from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The meeting here marked the first time the health officials gathered since Hurricane Mitch struck the Central American isthmus at the end of October.
The Health Ministers from the six nations and Dr. Alleyne signed the Costa del Sol Declaration, which called on all the nations affected by the hurricane to reinforce the anti-cholera programs, "noting the importance of the disease in the context of economic development."
Dr. Alleyne said the $1 million to prevent and control cholera would include programs for information, surveillance, community awareness, environmental clean up and water chlorination, and food handling practices.
"One of the things that really concerns me is the possibility of a reversal in what has been achieved in health in Central America," Dr. Alleyne said. "We can't have that. The other important point is to make sure that health figures prominently in the reconstruction efforts." The Director, accompanied by the Assistant Director Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, was on a tour that also included Honduras and Nicaragua.
Hardest hit by the hurricane were Nicaragua and Honduras. A document prepared by the Pan American Health Organization known as PAHO, indicated that "the minimum cost" to rebuild the health sector is $200 million. The document also said: "The reconstruction of health services and water systems can't go on repeating the errors of the past" and called on the public and private sectors to reduce
Contact: Daniel Epstein
Pan American Health Organization