Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Protests in Haiti over the cholera outbreak

A lot of the people in Haiti are blaming the United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal for starting the cholera epidemic. And you know what? The people may be right. A UN base dumped their sewage into the Artibonite river where the contamination began. Researchers have found that this strain of cholera is one commonly found in South Asia. Meanwhile, Haiti has not had cholera for over fifty years. The UN has admitted sanitation problems but will not investigate the cause of the contamination.

The Haitian people have began to turn to protests in order to be heard. Crowds in two northern cities threw stones, started fires, and blocked roads. The UN peacekeepers shot one demonstrator dead. From the Guardian, writer Rory Carroll recieves word from the UN on why they believe the riots began.

The UN peacekeeping force, known as Minustah, said the soldier had acted in self-defence, but an investigation had been launched.Cap-Haitien, the country's second city, was this morning cut off from the rest of Haiti after a day of rioting shut its roads and airport, and left more than a dozen people wounded. Clashes in the town of Hinche injured seven Nepalese peacekeepers, according to local radio.

Minustah officials said the protests were politically motivated, and linked them to the election later this month.

The mission said, in a statement: "The way events unfolded suggests these incidents were politically motivated, aimed at creating a climate of insecurity on the eve of elections. Minustah calls on the people to remain vigilant and not be manipulated by enemies of stability and democracy in the country." The flare-ups followed mounting anger and fear over a disease many blame on effluent from a base used by Nepalese troops in the Artibonite valley, where the outbreak began three weeks ago.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that the strain, which has infected more than 15,000 people and reached all 10 departments, resembled one from south Asia. Haiti's first epidemic in living memory began in the valley a week after the Nepalese arrived.

UN officials have admitted problems with the base's sanitation but denied its soldiers brought the disease, which is spread by contaminated faeces. No official investigation into the epidemic's origin has been launched despite appeals from Haitian leaders and foreign epidemiologists.

"In Haiti, most of the population believes it came from the Nepalese and that the UN will do its best to hide it," said Prospery Raymond, country director of the UK-based charity Christian Aid. "If it is confirmed to be from them, this will be damaging for the UN and their peacekeeping all over the world."

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