PORT-AU-PRINCE: Authorities in Haiti have responded to a call on social networks that the United Nations was recruiting volunteers to respond to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
A statement released last week, signed by the ministers of health, interior and defence, banned Haitian volunteers from travelling to Ebola-stricken countries in Africa.
Citing other diseases that have devastated the impoverished country in recent years, the ministers prohibited any agency – including the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) – from organizing the recruitment of Haitian volunteers
The ministers appealed to “the common sense of every citizen to avoid other more dramatic situations than what we have experienced in the recent past”.
The statement was described as a “warning” by Minister of Defence, Lener Renauld.
“It’s a question of public health and security to avoid any (Ebola) epidemic crisis happening in Haiti,” he said.
The development follows a recommendation last month by Minister of Health, Florence Duperval Guillaume, that all international agencies “suspend any rotation of members coming from countries where Ebola cases have been found”.
He said the announcement was made to restore the confidence of Haiti’s citizens.
“It may be much stronger than necessary, but think of those citizens who have been so traumatized, after the earthquake, after cholera, and after Chikungunya,” said Guillaume. “We cannot afford to take an additional trauma.”
Cholera, which had not been documented in the French-speaking country for almost a century, hit Haiti in 2010 and has killed 8,500 people and infected more than 700,000. It may have been brought to Haiti by UN peacekeepers from Nepal, who were stationed there following the January 12, 2010 earthquake.
Chikungunya, the mosquito-borne virus which is currently sweeping the region, broke out in Haiti earlier this year and has since claimed tens of thousands of suspected cases.