‘UN forces took cholera to Haiti’

A US health center says it has found new evidence which “strongly suggests” that UN peacekeeping forces from Nepal brought a deadly cholera strain to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the cholera outbreak in quake-hit Haiti originated from the Nepalese forces based near the town of Mirebalais in Centre Department, approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of the capital Port au Prince.

The Nepalese forces were deployed as a part of the UN peacekeeping mission after a devastating earthquake killed over 200,000 Haitian people and left more than one million homeless in January 2010.

“Our findings strongly suggest that contamination of the Artibonite (river) and one of its tributaries downstream from a military camp triggered the epidemic,” Renaud Piarroux and colleagues wrote in the July issue of CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The cholera epidemic, which was discovered in October, spread through the waterways, killing more than 5,500 and sickening over 363,000.

According to the new report, the first hospitalized patients were members of a family in the village that hosted a camp for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Health investigators found a pipe discharging refuse from the camp into a river that villagers living nearby used for cooking and drinking.

The outbreak was then spread to Mirebalais, where inhabitants drew water from the rivers because the water supply network was under repair.

The is “an exact correlation” in time and place between the deployment of the forces from Nepal and the beginning of the epidemic a few days later, CDC said.

The new report is the strongest argument yet claiming that newly come Nepalese peacekeepers “accidentally imported” cholera to the Caribbean country.

In May, a UN independent panel found that the cholera outbreak was caused by a South Asian strain imported by human activity but it did not mention a definite suspect.

Haiti is still dealing with a spike in the number of cholera cases brought on by several weeks of rainfall. The aid group Oxfam said earlier this month that its workers were treating more than 300 new cases a day.

The disease has spread to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where more than 36 deaths have been reported since November.

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