Click HERE to Listen to the Whole Radio (Interview begins at 12:25)
Below is a transcription of the second half of the interview in which Directors David and Bryn discuss the chronology of the outbreak and the UN role.
Dick Gordon: David, you were saying a couple of moments ago that the cholera outbreak was “a scandal” and that the death of Joseph’s mother kind of brought that forward. A scandal in what way?
David: It’s a scandal in the sense that it was a manmade catastrophe. It was accidentally brought to Haiti by the Nepalese peacekeeping troops whose base was located on the banks of one of Haiti’s largest rivers. I say accidentally, but it could have very well been avoided had they not been dumping their raw sewage in the river. When cholera first broke out, no one knew what it was, and then tests confirmed it was cholera. So then people were starting to ask, “Well, how did this happen? Cholera hasn’t been in Haiti. Where did it come from?” And then very quickly, I don’t know exactly who it was, but certainly some journalists started to do some investigations and they tracked the flow of the river and they worked out that it was very likely that it was coming from this Nepalese peacekeeper base. And then the scientists jumped onboard and started testing the water…
Bryn: …and the tests confirmed that it was a Himalayan strain of cholera that was found primarily in Nepal, and this was months after a cholera outbreak in Katmandu that cholera showed up in Haiti.
David: …and so it’s a scandal in the sense that it should have never come to Haiti. You know, the United Nations have their own environmental standards. They stand for human rights. They should have tested their own peacekeepers, or at least not dumped their sewage into a river; it’s just absolutely ridiculous. And so, you know, we knew it was the United Nations almost immediately after the outbreak. All fingers were pointing at the UN, and so there was an expectation that the UN was going to do something about it. But they never have, and still to this day they deny responsibility…
Dick: They deny responsibility?
David: Absolutely. I mean they themselves commissioned a report looking into the origins of the outbreak, and even that report points to the fact that it was very likely it was the Nepalese soldiers. But still, they skirted around responsibility by saying, “Well, if Haitian infrastructure hadn’t been so weak, and they had access to water and sanitation, then this wouldn’t have been such a disaster.”
Dick: One of the characters in your film is a Haitian lawyer who goes around and gathers stories of people who have lost friends or relatives to the cholera outbreak. Do they stand a chance, the Haitians, in doing anything to bring the UN’s feet to the fire on this, or is that part of the story in effect over?
Bryn: Oh, I hope that’s not other. Yeah, I think that those voices will be heard, and Mario Joseph whom you mentioned from the film works for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, which is an incredible human rights organization, and they’re on the case. And we hope that that’s a hopeful moment in the film to see Mario working so hard, and you know Mario never sleeps and is a complete inspiration to us and a hero to us. And you know, we have to be hopeful and we have to be optimistic that these stories won’t just become statistics in a forgotten environmental scandal in, you know, decades from now [my emphasis]. This is a moment where the people who traditionally have had no voice, you know, or who have remained unheard, have an opportunity now to get their voices out loud and clear. And the hope is, potentially, that the United Nations will change how it does business around the world, and change how its peacekeepers behave around the world. And no longer is it okay to just not have proper sanitation, not have proper toilets, and so you know, we hope…
Dick: …and your young friend Joseph, the little baseball player who improbably says, “I love my life.” Uh, how is he doing?
Bryn: He’s great. He’s strong and he struggles, and he misses his mom a lot, and he talks to us a lot about it. And he’s surviving, and you know, he’s still in school everyday, he still plays baseball, he still plays with his friends. He’s got his head up. He studies hard, and you know, his friends in Toronto promised him to help him get into any university he wants, so he’s working hard for that.
David: …he’s on Facebook. [Laughter] Yeah, he’s a normal kid.
Dick: So you’re saying he’ll become a part of whatever Haiti becomes.
Dick: The UN convened an independent panel to study the cause of the cholera outbreak. Their final report said the following, that “the Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances, and was not the deliberate fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual.” The Haitians strongly disagree with that and they are still pursuing legal action against the UN. You can find out more about David and Bryn’s film “Baseball in the Time of Cholera.” We have the links on our website…