Responsibility and Accountability: The Haitian Epidemic and the United Nations

Photo credit: Ben Depp

Photo credit: Ben Depp

By Adam Houston, Jerry Stenquist, Beatrice Lindstrom, Katharina Rall, and Alok Pokharel, Visiting Focus Bloggers 

This piece is the second in a series on the cholera epidemic sweeping Haiti. This perspective was written by staff and legal fellows at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).

The Haitian cholera epidemic is the most serious of the 21st century, with over 600,000 cases and 8000 deaths since October 2010.  As affirmed repeatedly, including by the UN-mandated independent panel of experts tasked with investigating the source of the epidemic, the scientific evidence indicates that the epidemic originated from a UN base situated on a tributary of the Artibonite River in Mirebalais.

Continue reading

Cholera: The Epidemic Power of Vibrio cholerae

By Jeremy Akers, Danny Mays, Marc Siegel, MD, Visiting Focus Bloggers 

Cholera patients in Haiti. Source: Rapadoo Observateur

Cholera patients in Haiti. Source: Rapadoo Observateur

This is the first in a series of posts on cholera and its impact on Haiti. The first post is a discussion of the disease itself, and serves as an examination of medical and epidemiological factors that enabled cholera to be carried by Nepalese UN peacekeepers and spread throughout Haiti with deadly force.

Haiti’s cholera epidemic began in October of 2010. Since then, researchers have been investigating the origin of the infection, as it had not been seen on the island of Hispaniola in over a century. Scientists have performed biochemical tests and genetic analysis on the bacteria in Haiti, tracing the current outbreak to a strain of Vibrio cholerae that is widespread in cholera-endemic southern Asia. The CDC found evidence that human waste from a UN peacekeeping base staffed by Nepalese officers was contaminating tributaries of the Artibonite River that flowed through many of the tent cities housing displaced Haitians after the earthquake. Journalists and the public put two and two together, and outrage has ensued, and legal action is being taken against the UN on behalf of affected Haitians.

Continue reading