Haiti: activists tell UN to pay for cholera epidemic

During the last week of June several Haitian social organizations called on the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to pay reparations to the victims of a cholera epidemic that appeared to originate at the international occupation force’s base near Mirebalais in the Central Plateau. Representatives of Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA), the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) and other groups said MINUSTAH should pay out to the Haitian people 25% to 30% of its annual operating budget of $853 million. SOFA made similar demands in January. The epidemic, which started in October, has killed some 5,500 people to date and sickened about 300,000. (AlterPresse, Haiti, July 1)

The renewed demands came as the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report on June 28 in one of its journals, Emerging Infectious Diseases, that points to the MINUSTAH base as the likely source of the disease. “Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite [Haiti’s main river] and one of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic,” wrote a team headed by a leading French cholera expert, Dr. Renaud Piarroux. The report states that the camp had “deficient sanitation,” and it also casts doubt on MINUSTAH’s repeated claims that none of the Nepalese soldiers at the base showed symptoms of cholera. “We…believe that symptomatic cases occurred inside the MINUSTAH camp,” the team wrote. (Emerging Infectious Diseases, July 2011; Reuters, June 30) (Piarroux came to similar conclusions in a preliminary report last year.)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 3.

See our last post on Haiti.