Press Release Latin America and the Caribbean World

MINUSTAH Must Take Responsibility for Causing Cholera Epidemic That’s Killed 7,000 People, CEPR Co-Director Says

December 19, 2011

Contact: Karen Conner, (202) 293-5380 x117Mail_Outline

December 19, 2011

Statements by UN Spokesman Nigel Fisher “False and Deceptive”

For Immediate Release: December 19, 2011
Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Washington, D.C.– The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) owes it to the half-a-million cholera victims in Haiti to take responsibility for having caused the outbreak, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot also called recent statements by UN’s head of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, regarding the origins of the epidemic “false and deceptive.”

“It is deplorable that a full 14 months after the discovery of the first cholera case, the UN continues to dodge responsibility for having reintroduced a deadly disease that has now killed a minimum of 7,000 people,” Weisbrot said. “This is a case of criminal negligence, and the UN, if it is to continue to be worthy of the respect of people around the world, must own up to the fact that it caused this problem.

“Even worse, the UN, through its spokespeople, is attempting to mislead the public about the type of cholera strain that has been identified in Haiti.”

Weisbrot noted that in recent comments to the BBC, Fisher claimed that “The cholera strain we have in Haiti is the same as the one they have in Latin America and Africa. They all derive from Bangladesh in the 1960s so they are all an Asian strain.”

But this directly contradicts several scientific studies. Even the UN’s own report states:  “Overall, this basic bacteriological information indicates the Haitian isolates were similar to the Vibrio cholerae strains currently circulating in South Asia and parts of Africa, and not to strains isolated in the Gulf of Mexico, those found in other parts of Latin America…” and that “A careful analysis of the MLVA results and the ctxB gene indicated that the strains isolated in Haiti and Nepal during 2009 were a perfect match.”

In a case that continues to attract international interest and attention, last month, lawyers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux filed for damages from the UN on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims. A Brazilian organization, the Faculdade de Direito de Santa Maria, has also filed a separate petition [PDF], seeking intervention by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and calling for the UN to provide compensation to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other affected countries, and for a fund of at least $500,000,000 to create a public health system in Haiti.


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