How the UN Brought Cholera to Haiti

From the Assciated Press…

Before last month, there had never been a confirmed case of cholera in Haiti.

In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said cholera was “extremely unlikely to occur” in Haiti. There were no cholera bacteria there.

Then it did. Even more surprisingly, it did not first appear in a major port, an earthquake tent camp or an area where foreigners are concentrated, but instead along the rural Artibonite River.

Speculation keeps returning to that river and a base home to 454 U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. They are perched on a babbling waterway called the Boukan Kanni, part of the Meille River that feeds into the Artibonite.

People living nearby have long complained about the stink in the back of the base and sewage in the river. Before the outbreak began they had stopped drinking from that section of the river, depending instead on a source farther up the mountain.

The CDC has said the strain of cholera in Haiti matches one found most prevalently in South Asia.

“It very much likely did come either with peacekeepers or other relief personnel,” said John Mekalanos, Harvard University microbiology chair. “I don’t see there is any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably accidental introduction of the organism occurred.”

So how did cholera get into the Artibonite River?

Sanitation at the (Nepalese) base is handled by a private company, Sanco Enterprises SA, which won the contract over the summer by underbidding a rival. The U.N. said the septic tanks were to be emptied once a week.

But when the AP visited on Oct. 27, a tank was clearly overflowing. The back of the base smelled like a toilet had exploded. Reeking, dark liquid flowed out of a broken pipe, toward the river, from next to what the soldiers said were latrines. U.N. military police were taking samples in clear jars with sky-blue U.N. lids, clearly horrified.

The U.N. said it is up to the private contractor and local mayor to ensure its dump sites are safe. Sanco Vice President Marguerite Jean-Louis said it is up to the mayor and the U.N.

Let’s add up the evidence.

A strain of cholera native to Nepal appears for the first time ever in Haiti on the Artibonite River, near a Nepalese encampment which “smelled like a toilet had exploded” and where “reeking, dark liquid flowed out of a broken pipe, toward the river.”

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect those dots.

And it only gets worse.

Cholera has already killed at least 1100 people in Haiti, and “a U.S. government health expert said Thursday it may take years to completely eliminate cholera from Haiti,” because “the strain of the disease observed there is especially virulent.”

The UN will probably trade blame back and forth forever with their local sewage contractor, but I blame the UN on the basis of a principle whose universal validity I proclaim for all times and in all places.

You are responsible for your own shit.


1 comment

  1. And of course the UN is desperately trying to wiggle out of responsibility for this catastrophe.

    The U.N. says none of the peacekeepers showed symptoms of the disease. But 75 percent of people infected with cholera never show symptoms but can still pass on the disease for two weeks – especially in countries like Nepal where people have developed immunity.

Comments have been disabled.