x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Development prevents disease, diminishes chance of disaster

The minimal effect of an earthquake in New Zealand earlier this year, more powerful than the one that killed tens of thousands in Haiti last year, illustrates this point.

We thought it was over; a malaise of yesteryear that modern science had stamped out. But the preventable waterborne disease that can fell a victim within hours has not gone away. In Haiti this week, an outbreak of cholera has so far killed 253 people. More than 3,000 infections have been linked to a contaminated river that cleaves through outlying areas of the country.

Marie-Michele Rey, the foreign minister, said that the disease "is limited to a well-defined perimeter". As the epidemic is contained, it can also teach a broader lesson.

Development not only prevents disease, it diminishes the chance that disaster will strike. The minimal effect of an earthquake in New Zealand earlier this year, more powerful than the one that killed tens of thousands in Haiti last year, illustrates this point.

Modern medicine has done much to contain deadly diseases, but the development of a reliable infrastructure and public health apparatus remain the most important weapons against an outbreak of cholera or any other disease. In an increasingly globalised world, pathogens can travel rapidly and the world's ability to combat outbreaks will continue to be tested. But the development work we do today remains our most important tool in minimising the risk of disaster tomorrow.