Some 2,400 kilometres from New York City, where victims of Haiti’s cholera epidemic are suing the United Nations in a U.S. federal court, the disease continues to burn through the populace with no end in sight.
In a single week between Oct. 19 and Oct. 26, the Pan-American Health Organisation reported 1,512 new cases and 31 deaths. New cases are reported in all 10 departments.
At the Cholera Treatment Centre run by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in Delmas 33, a commune in Port-au-Prince Arrondissement, nurse Viola Augustine says the clinic is so packed it cannot accept new patients.
“The centre has already handled over 20,000 cases of cholera since it opened. At the moment, the centre is full and we cannot take in the increase of patients due to the rainy season,” she told IPS. “We are forced, in this case, to transfer patients to other treatment centres when they are brought here.”
The spread of cholera in Haiti, which has killed more than 8,300 and infected over 680,000 people since October 2010, has been blamed on Nepali peacekeepers who are part of the 9,500‑strong U.N. Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
The United Nations has refused demands for compensation. Earlier this month, an advocacy group filed a lawsuit seeking reparations from the world body on behalf of the cholera victims.
Felicia Paul, 45, lives in Saint-Marc, about 100 kms northwest of the capital. She caught cholera in 2010, and survived it though extensive treatment with saline IV bags.
“I was infected with cholera for 12 days,” Paul told IPS. “My two daughters caught it while they were taking care of me. MINUSTAH brought cholera so we ask that they compensate me. We always drank water out of the river and it never made us ill. But that water has been contaminated due the spillage of the peacekeeper’s feces into the river.
“I still feel the effects of the disease,” she added. “It blurs my vision and weakens me every day.”
A former senior U.N. official from Nepal told IPS he strongly supports compensation.
“As a Nepali who lived in and loved Haiti, I feel special empathy for the victims of the cholera epidemic,” said former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Kul Gautam.
In a way, he said, even the Nepali peacekeepers are victims of the kind of poverty and poor governance that afflicts both Nepal and Haiti. The two nations are categorised by the United Nations as among the 49 least developed countries (LDCs), described as the poorest of the world’s poor.Providing peacekeepers for the UN—in effect, renting out troops—is a revenue source for poor countries. If Haiti had an army, it might be renting its troops too.