Two years after Haiti’s deadly 2010 earthquake, a second humanitarian crisis continues to claim Haitian lives.
Whereas the first crisis was a natural disaster, the second — a massive outbreak of cholera — was man-made. Worse still, although the United Nations unwittingly caused the epidemic, the world’s largest humanitarian organization has disclaimed responsibility and has failed to address the legitimate demands of the thousands of Haitians affected.
In October 2010, U.N. peacekeeping troops stationed about 100 kilometers north of Port-au-Prince at a camp lacking basic sanitation facilities dumped human waste into a tributary of the Artibonite, the country’s largest river system. This set off what has become the world’s worst and fastest-spreading cholera epidemic, infecting over 500,000 people and killing more than 7,000.
Before late 2010, when U.N. troops arrived carrying pathogens from cholera-stricken Nepal, not a single case of cholera had been reported in Haiti for a century. Seven months after the outbreak, a U.N.-appointed independent panel of international experts released a report largely confirming what a number of epidemiological studies had already concluded: U.N. troops were the sole source of the disease. The report also found that the U.N. had failed not only to ensure proper sanitary waste disposal in accordance with its agreement with Haiti, but also to conduct adequate water safety tests or to take timely corrective measures when cholera exploded throughout the country.