Contact: Jasmine Huggins, Church World Service (202) 481-6942 | Charissa Zehr, Mennonite Central Committee (202) 544-6564

Faith Leaders Urge Obama Administration to take a leadership role in eliminating cholera in Haiti

Tuesday, October 11, Washington, D.C. – As cholera cases spike in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, more than 60 faith-based organizations and religious groups sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Kerry, urging them to exercise leadership at the United Nations (UN) to ensure that concrete steps are taken to eliminate the cholera epidemic introduced to Haiti in 2010 by UN peacekeepers. Health experts warn of a health crisis throughout the country if actions to treat and prevent cholera aren’t taken quickly.

While the UN’s recent acknowledgment of its role in proliferating cholera in Haiti and talk of a new cholera elimination plan has been encouraging, the faith groups sincerely hope that this new wave of commitment will save lives and bring positive change to Haiti. Echoing the voices of 158 United States Congressmen and women who made a similar request to the Obama Administration in June, this diverse coalition of faith-based groups, institutions, and congregations request that the U.S. play “a vital role in supporting a robust response that includes the UN’s formal apology to the victims and the fulfillment of its overdue promise to eliminate cholera through renewed treatment efforts and substantial investment in clean water and sanitation infrastructure.“

Faith groups also urge the Obama administration to “provide funding for these initiatives and take a leadership role in urging other member states to do the same….and help ensure the UN keeps its commitments and that its new plan of action is created and implemented in consultation with victims, Haitian civil society, and the Haitian government.”

The groups stand in solidarity with Haitians who have been affected by cholera. Says Reverend John McCullough of Church World Service, one of the signers of the letter, the organization “has been concerned about the impact of cholera – a preventable water borne disease – on Haiti’s most vulnerable people. Cholera has also depleted family resources as relatives have had to pay increased medical costs to care for sick relatives, and also bury those who passed.  Women especially have borne the brunt of the disease. Going forward, it is imperative that the United Nations work with the Government of Haiti, find the scale of financial and human resources needed, and invest in safe water and sanitation infrastructure and the medical facilities needed.”

Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service added his organization’s support of the letter. “As a Jewish organization with a focus on justice, we believe that the harm done to Haitians must be recognized and their needs must be addressed by the UN in its recovery plan as it works to curb the spread of cholera in the country and correct a grave error of the UN’s own making.”

The letter warns that each passing day without a meaningful UN response is another chapter in an unfolding tragedy and we respectfully urge the Department of State to treat the issue with the urgency it requires.

Read the full letter with signatories, including national denominations: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, National Council of Churches, National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, Presbyterian Church (USA), Progressive National Baptist Convention, The Episcopal Church, The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Including prominent faith-based organizations: American Jewish World Service, Church World Service, Mennonite Central Committee U.S., NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Pax Christi International & USA, The Salvation Army, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, World Renew, and World Vision.