Haiti Cholera Strain and U.N. Peacekeepers May Be Linked

U.N. peacekeepers may have introduced a lethal strain of the disease into the Haitian population in the fall.

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U.N. peacekeepers may have brought more than "peace" to Haiti. (Getty)

The Washington Post is reporting that a United Nations panel investigating the source of Haiti's 2010 cholera outbreak has turned up circumstantial evidence suggesting that U.N. peacekeepers may have introduced a lethal strain of the disease into the Haitian population in the fall, triggering an epidemic that has so far killed more than 4,500 people and sickened another 300,000.

But the panel stopped short of blaming the blue-helmeted forces for causing the cholera outbreak, saying that the elements contributing to the spread of the disease -- including poor sanitation and a dysfunctional health care system -- were so varied as to make it impossible to identify a specific culprit.

Colum Lynch reported, "The independent panel concludes that the Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances ... and was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual," according to the 32-page panel report, which was released late Wednesday.

U.N. peacekeeping officials highlighted the inconclusive findings to underscore that there was no hard evidence linking the peacekeeping mission to the cholera outbreak. The United Nations will establish a task force to study the findings and recommendations, including a call for prescreening of U.N. peacekeepers for cholera, said Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

It is often difficult to isolate causal factors from one another in conducting research, but the fact remains that the U.N. peacekeepers did play a role in bringing that strain of cholera to the devastated area. The U.N. should have screened its "peacekeepers" more closely before they were deployed.

Calling for prescreening now is reasonable, but it should have been done prior to the additional havoc being wreaked on Haiti because of this deadly strain. Despite the good intentions of the U.N., there is no justification for skipping over such a critical step in maintaining safety for all involved, including the peacekeepers.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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