Protesters blame UN base for cholera in Haiti

October 30, 2010
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Protesters march to the Nepal U.N. base in Mirebalais, Haiti, Friday Oct. 29, 2010. Protesters who blame U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal for Haiti's widening cholera epidemic marched on a rural military base Friday to demand the soldiers leave the country. (AP Photo)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Hundreds of protesters who blame U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal for Haiti’s widening cholera epidemic marched on a rural military base Friday to demand the soldiers leave the country.

Demonstrators waving tree branches and carrying anti-U.N. banners walked from the central plateau city of Mirebalais several miles to the gates of the base perched above a tributary of the Artibonite River — a waterway identified by health officials as a conduit for the infection.

The protesters chanted “Like it or not, they must go” as the Nepalese soldiers and other U.N. peacekeepers remained inside.

Cholera has sparked widespread fear in Haiti, where it was unknown before the outbreak was first noticed by authorities Oct. 20. As of Friday morning, more than 4,700 people have been hospitalized and at least 330 have died, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

There has been no scientific conclusion on the origin of the epidemic, which became evident when dozens of patients began dying with high fevers and watery diarrhea at a hospital in the town of St. Marc a few miles from the last stretch of the river.

Experts say the disease was likely imported. Until this month there had not been a diagnosed case of cholera in Haiti as far back as records go in the mid-20th Century, said Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the global task force on cholera control at the World Health Organization. The disease is pandemic in parts of Africa and Asia.

Speculation among Haitians is increasingly centered on the Nepalese peacekeeping base near Mirebalais, much of it being stoked by politicians including the town’s mayor — a Senate candidate — ahead of the Nov. 28 national elections.

Cholera is endemic in Nepal and the country suffered outbreaks this summer. The current troop contingent arrived in shifts starting Oct. 9, after the outbreak in their home country and shortly before the disease broke out in Haiti. Cases have been concentrated down river along the Artibonite.

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH by its French initials, is investigating the area around the base for signs of cholera, The Associated Press learned after happening on crews testing the site Wednesday. The results of those tests are still pending.

None of the Nepalese soldiers based there have been tested for cholera because none presented symptoms, mission spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese said Friday. He said media reports published elsewhere saying that all soldiers had tested negative for the disease were incorrect.

“By none of them presenting the symptom of the cholera there was no need to do another test,” Pugliese told AP. “It’s not the same as saying they were all tested negative because none of them had to be tested.” The soldiers have not been tested for cholera since the outbreak, he said.

But about 75 percent of people infected with cholera do not exhibit symptoms and can still shed them into the environment and infect others for two weeks, Pan American Health Organization deputy director Jon Andrus told reporters at a press briefing on Oct. 25.

The U.N.’s Medical Support Manual for peacekeeping operations lists neither diarrhea nor cholera on its list of conditions precluding peacekeeping service.

The mission had initially responded to rumors of the base’s involvement with a Tuesday statement saying that sanitation around the base was in line with the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations.

But when Associated Press journalists visited Wednesday, they found open and cracked pipes behind the base, with U.N. military investigators taking samples. There was an overpowering smell of human waste, and a pipe leading toward a septic tank was leaking foul-smelling black fluid toward the river.

The waste is dumped across the street in open pits that residents, who live a few yards away, said often overflow into the Artibonite tributary running below. The contractor, Sanco Enterprises SA, says the pits are sprayed with bleach.

On Friday, protesters called on the Haitian government to kick out the Nepalese soldiers.

“The Nepalese brought this disease to the center of Mirebalais,” said Ernst Exilume, a 25-year-old student. “We have no water to drink. We have no choice but to drink the water from the river.”

International aid groups had made hygiene and the control of disease priorities after the Jan. 12 earthquake, especially as millions of Haitians found themselves homeless and living in tarp and tent settlements around the capital. Throughout the year banners imploring people to wash their hands have hung over streets and on walls.

Scientists from the CDC are retesting samples to determine the nature of the cholera strain at a molecular level, which could help pinpoint its origin, and hope to have results to share with Haiti’s Ministry of Health sometime over the weekend, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told the AP.

Tests can indicate the areas of the world where this cholera strain has been found, but the results may not reveal its national origin or how it got to Haiti, he said.

The U.S. agency is not specifically investigating in the area of the base or taking environmental samples, another CDC spokesman, David Daigle, said.

“For sure it is going to be important to know where the germ came from. I don’t know if we are going to get an answer,” Chaignat, the WHO official, said.

Associated Press reporters Pierre Richard Luxama in Mirebalais, Colleen Barry in Geneva and Michael Stobbe in Atlanta contributed to this story.

2 Responses to “ Protesters blame UN base for cholera in Haiti ”

  1. jeriko on October 30, 2010 at

    Kotemanm gouvenman Ayisyen yo? Kote kandida eleksyon kokayin 28 Novanm yo? Kote Preval, Bellerive, Alexis, Madan Pierre-Louis, Lambert, Jean-Charles, Joseph, Neptune,Privert,Avril,Bastien, Longchamp,Herivaux,Gwo Gerard, Bazin, tout minis Lavalas yo, tout anbasade Lavalas yo, gouvenman enterime a, Gerard Pierre-Charles kite ekri pwoje kraze lame a, enfen, tout gouvenman restavek apre 1986 yo, tout politisyen pepe lagoch yo, tout chime, kidnape, trafikan dwog yo,tout depite malatyong apre 1986 yo,kote Paul denis chef operasyon fe kou fe,kote K-Plim, kote politisyen kite di pep la dwe viv tankou bet nan ri “Lari a se salon pep la”, kote Lilianne, Konpe Filo, Marvel Dandin, ak tout lot jounalis dechouke apre 1986 yo, Boujwazi repiyan an, PNH kokayin, kidnaping, majistra kontrebadye yo,kote Claudy Gassant, kote Met Exume, kote fo lide mache politik “Se radot yo”?

    Jodi a, pep la dwe konprann byen kle ke lis moun ki vann peyi a pou kokayin, zam, pouvwa pou mennen mouvman teworis kont Etazini yo, se yomenm menm ki responsab Jenosid k ap pratike sou pep la depi apre depa Jean-Claude Duvalier an Fevriye 1986.Fo jeneral bouda kaka ak tout ofisye makome lame dAyiti yo, se yo ki mete nou nan katstwof sa yo. Yo tout al kache le pep la nan male. Men kou blan vini avek bato katastwof lanmo pou ekstemine pep la, you tout reponn prezan. Yo tout gentan nan komite sanpouwel pou vin fe mago dola vet sou do pep la.

    Yo tout femen dyol yo, yo youn pa di enyen, yo kite se lajenes pov la ki pou pran lari pou mande jistis pou moun k ap mouri tankou zannimo yo komsi moun sa yo pa gen dwa viv, dapre prensip rasis Adolf Hitler kite deklare ke” Juifs ak African ” pa moun moun menm jan ak blan, yo se souzom, kidonk, yo dwe ekstemine yo sou tout late. Jodi a, nou we ke Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Rene Preval, Daniel Ortega,Evo Morales, Fernandez, ak tout lot malandren mouvman alba yo ap ekzekite plan Hitler ya sou pep la sou yon lot fom. Y ap mache jouke sou pouvwa yon pil ak yon paket kriminel ki pired pase kriminel nazi yo, pa mwayen Nasyonzini, ki bay tet li non ” Minustah”.

    Ke nou leve kanpe, ke nou chita, tout nasyon an deja anba kondanasyon pou ki pedi lavi li tankou bet.Ebyen, nou pa genyen okenn lot altenativ, se tabli operasyon youn kont youn nan wi. Premye aksyon nou, ta dwe, ‘Kanpe kont eleksyon Minustah-kokayin-kidnaping nan” epi pote boure sou tout moun k ap kore jenosid la gren pa gren. Se tout sa ki make senbol Istwa peyi a moun yo vin detwi.Plato Santral se toujou yon fwaye rezistans kont lokipasyon avek Charlemagne Peralte, Gonaives, Marchand-Dessalines, Ennery se lakay Toussaint Louverture, Se beso endepandans peyi a, se nomal, Minustah okestre jenosid masif la nan rejyon sa yo.

    Kote Boulos, Accra, Mevs, Gwoup boudon yo, kote Osner Fevry, Reynold George, kote jij pe yi dAyiti yo, Zaboka k ap jij k ap blanchi masisi ak madivinez gouvenman yo? Nou tout al kache pa vre?Pep la la dwe pran not.

    Tanselman, nou sou lis tande.

  2. leo on October 30, 2010 at

    i found that hard to beleive that the CDC spoke person claim that will be almost impossible to determine where the germ come from ;that sound suspicious ? the expert stated that was an imported germ that created all the fatalities in the country ; why dont they tested or required any group to be tested before comming to haiti like when they go to any other country or bring haitian professional that are living in the us to do the job. the gov of haiti must answer to the people of haiti for the lost of their love one and they need to know why the gov let them suffered so much before providing any medical help ;the family should know and demand the origin of the germ to protect others for being infected. According to those findings around the area that they discovered , one can strongly suggest and lead to beleive that the germ come from in that area where non haitian citizen live. All haitian citizen all over the country must take precautionary mesure to prevent futur health damage for their love one.