UN Names Commission to Investigate Cholera in Haiti
By Dialogo January 10, 2011
On 6 January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named four experts from Latin America, the United States, and India to investigate the origin of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, which some Haitians attribute to United Nations peacekeeping forces.
More than 3,400 people have died of cholera in Haiti since the outbreak began in October. In November, demonstrators attacked a United Nations patrol with rocks and shouted slogans accusing the UN soldiers from Nepal of carrying the illness.
Last month, U.S. researchers reported that the cholera strain originated in South Asia and is very similar to one circulating in Bangladesh. Up to now, the United Nations has said that there is no scientific evidence that the Nepalese battalion was responsible, and all tests on its soldiers have come back negative.
When he announced the plan to create an independent investigative commission, however, on 17 December, Ban said, “There remain fair questions and legitimate concerns that demand the best answer that science can provide.”
Ban said that the commission will be chaired by Alejandro Cravioto, who is Mexican but works at the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh.
The other three members are Claudio Lanata from the Peruvian Nutritional Research Institute, Daniele Lantagne from Harvard University in the United States, and Balakrish Nair from the Indian National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases.
The commission will review all the information and data available up to now and will travel to Haiti to conduct research on site, Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said in a statement.
The commission will operate independently from the United Nations, will have access to all UN records, reports, installations, and personnel, and will report both to Ban and to the Haitian government, Nesirky said.