Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Can the UN Keep Dodging Cholera Accountability?

As the United Nations continues to dodge accountability for the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti, its credibility continues to erode. This article discusses the origin of the epidemic, how cholera has been treated in the past, how the UN can work towards ending the epidemic, and implications if our lawsuit succeeds.

Part of the article is below. Click HERE for the full text.

When Peacekeepers Become Disease Spreaders

When United Nations peacekeepers inadvertently started a cholera epidemic in Haiti, victims expected compensation from the world’s foremost human rights arbiter. What does it mean if they can’t get it?

M. Sophia Newman, Pacific Standard
February 27, 2015

Cap-Haitien, Haiti, 2003. (Photo: Danny Alvarez/Shutterstock)

They called him moun fou, a Creole term for a mentally ill person—but what killed him began as a rational act. On a day in October 2010, a 28-year-old man (who happened to have schizophrenia) bathed in a local river in the town of Mirebalais, Haiti. By October 12, the man was sick with diarrhea; less than 24 hours later, he was dead. Some 720,000 of his fellow Haitians have since contracted the same condition—“a tsunami of sick people,” says Louise C. Ivers, a doctor with Haitian NGO Partners in Health—and nearly 9,000 have died. The disease is cholera, and the source of the outbreak, according to a lawsuit initiated by 5,000 of them, is an action by the United Nations.

In 2010, after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, a battalion of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal was stationed at a base along the Artibonite, one of the country’s biggest rivers. Within weeks, cholera—a disease never before seen in Haiti—spread nationwide. Months later, scientific investigations would determine that the Nepalese detachment were immune carriers of a strain of cholera bacteria that had recently been found in outbreaks in Nepal. They’d built toilet facilities that released their untreated waste directly into the Artibonite. In Haiti, which lacks sufficient potable water in homes and schools, the bacteria became impossible for millions to avoid. “In the beginning, we were so overwhelmed by the death around us,” Ivers says of the epidemic.*

 

Click HERE for the full text.

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