Speculation that United Nation Nepalese peacekeepers brought Cholera to earthquake-ravaged Haiti gained some legitimacy this week. French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux conducted an evaluation of the outbreak and concluded that the outbreak, which has killed at least 2,000 people, originated right next to a UN base outside of the town of Mirebalais.
“No other hypothesis could be found to explain the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in this village … not affected by the earthquake earlier this year and located dozens of kilometers from the coast and (tent) camps,” he wrote in a report, not yet released, but widely reported by news wires.
UN officials have maintained that there is no definite evidence that the base was the source of the outbreak, a spokesman for the international body said this week that the UN “remains very receptive to any scientific debate or investigations on this.”
Piarroux did not offer hard evidence to prove his hypothesis, but, according to the international wire service with the leaked report, he “hinted strongly at a cover-up.”
“It can not be ruled out that steps have been taken to remove the suspected fecal matter and to erase the traces of an epidemic of cholera among the soldiers,” he wrote, explaining that septic tanks and plumbing had been removed from the site.
The report’s unofficial release comes right as Haiti deals with a bevy of crises: the country remains largely in shambles, tens of thousands are infected with cholera, and the nation is experiencing widespread protest over the results of the recent presidential election.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday that the cholera has now spread to every part of the struggling nation, and there have been cases in neighboring Dominican Republic, though the outbreak is not expected to be nearly as severe in the DR because of their water sanitation systems.
Cholera is a bacterial disease, transmitted primarily through contaminated water or food, that causes severe hydration, watery diarrhea, vomiting, and can be deadly if untreated.