In trying to identify the introduction of the cholera strain, the U.N. panel’s new report tracks the arrival of a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers from Kathmandu to a U.N. encampment in the village of Mirebalais in October 2010. Within days, hospitals in the region registered a dramatic increase in deaths from diarrhea and dehydration, signature symptoms of cholera. The illnesses marked the opening chapter in an epidemic that quickly spread across the country.
The report stated that the United Nations had constructed a “haphazard” system of pipes from the U.N. camps’ showers and toilets to six fiberglass tanks. The “black water waste,” which included human feces, was then transferred to an open, unfenced, septic pit, near where children and animals frequently roamed. The system presented “significant potential” for contamination, the report said.
The members of the U.N. panel — who no longer work for the world body — defended their initial findings, saying that the “majority of evidence” at the time of their first report was “circumstantial.”
The latest findings will increase pressure on the United Nations to acknowledge responsibility for introducing cholera into the country. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his top advisers had invoked the panel’s ambivalent 2010 findings in arguing that the United Nations bore no legal responsibility for the epidemic, although they said the organization was committed to lead international efforts to respond to the health crisis and improve the Haiti’s sanitation infrastructure.
The Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti filed a compensation claim in November 2011 on behalf of the families of 5,000 victims, and it is preparing lawsuits against the United Nations in U.S. and Haitian courts on behalf of thousands more.For more on this story, see this article in Turtle Bay. I'm trying to find the panel's new article, but it doesn't seem to be online yet.