Cholera in Haiti
Contributed by Alli Weis
Back in 2010 there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti. In response, to help Haiti with the struggles, a team of UN Nepalese peacekeepers arrived. The peacekeepers set up camp in the rural Center Department of Haiti, about 61 miles outside of the capitol, Port-au-Prince and many people became sick with Cholera in the region directly surrounding the camp. Within a year, by March 2011, 4,672 Haitian people had died from Cholera. After investigation it seems as though sewage from the UN camp was seeping into a nearby river, the Arbitonite River, infecting the downstream water sources. Cholera had not been seen in Haiti for over 150 years and was therefore not considered a major health concern for the island people prior to the earthquake and the arrival of aid workers.
Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae and causes severe watery diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death. Cholera is spread via the fecal oral route, by drinking contaminated water and eating contaminated food containing V. cholera. Every year there are between 3-5 million cases of Cholera worldwide and about 100,000 deaths, according to the US CDC. It seems likely that the UN peacekeepers were sick with Cholera before entering Haiti and were the cause of the epidemic in Haiti, which by now has killed at least 10,000 people. To further the evidence, genotyping of the Cholera strain revealed that various samples collected from Haitian patients were serogroup O1, serotype Ogawa, which is a strain found in South Asia (CDC). Since this initial event in Haiti, the Dominican Republic has also
Only very recently, August of 2016, the UN accepted responsibility in the role after a journalist wrote a report showing not only bacterial linkages but also revealed that the UN tried to cover the story up. We are likely to hear much more about this story, as the investigations into the UN treatment of the situation are currently ongoing.