Posts Tagged ‘Cholera outbreak’

UN is only as good as its worst member: Uruguay troops misbehave in Haiti

September 5, 2011

As if Haiti hadn’t enough problems.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established in 2004 and was given a new mandate to help maintain order and security following last year’s devastating earthquake. Earlier this year the UN mission was heavily criticised in the handling of the cholera outbreak which killed some 6,000 people. To make it worse it seems that the cholera was introduced into Haiti by peacekeeping troops from Nepal (where cholera is endemic).

Related: Whole-Genome Study Nails Haiti-Nepal Cholera Link

Now the UN and the Haitians have been let down badly by part of the contingent from Uruguay.


MONTEVIDEO — Uruguay announced it has sacked a navy commander with the UN mission in Haiti after a video was circulated of an alleged sexual assault on a young Haitian man by members of a Uruguayan peacekeeping unit.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement that in addition to the dismissal of the official — who was not immediately named — a military justice board had been convened and paperwork for the return home of the five allegedly involved had been started.

“The navy wants to go beyond the simple fact of the video (to determine) if there are other violations of conduct,” spokesman Sergio Bique told local media. The suspects will be tried and sentenced appropriately, he stressed.

In Haiti, Magistrate Paul Tarte said Friday that officials were examining testimony from the alleged suspect and images of the incident taken by a cell telephone camera at the base in southern Haiti, which have also been circulated on the Internet. Medical evidence of the attack also was obtained.

UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said the United Nations acted immediately after hearing about the incident late last week.

The UN is an easy target for criticism and is often castigated from all sides of the political divide (and I am just as guilty in indulging in some of the criticism). But of course the UN is only as good as its worst member and it is the Lowest Common Factor which applies.

UN in Haiti (MINUSTAH): Current strength (31 July 2011)

  • 12,252 total uniformed personnel
    • 8,728 troops
    • 3,524 police
  • 564 international civilian personnel
  • 1,338 local civilian staff
  • 221 United Nations Volunteers

Country contributors

Military personnel – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Japan, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, United States and Uruguay.

Police personnel – Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Grenada, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Yemen.

UN Elections in Haiti a shambles

November 28, 2010

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Amid allegations of stuffed ballot boxes and other fraud, 12 of 18 candidates for president (have) called for the elections to be cancelled, (and) accuse President René Préval of trying to fix the contest.

Elections on Sunday in a nation already racked by January’s earthquake and a cholera epidemic devolved into chaos, with thousands of voters unable to find their names on electoral rolls and a general outcry alleging widespread fraud. Twelve of the 18 presidential candidates issued a declaration saying the elections should be canceled and that the people should “mobilize” to prevent the government from accepting the results. They accused President René Préval of conspiring with the electoral council to install his party in Parliament and his pick to succeed him, Jude Celestin, in the National Palace. Celestin was second in recent polling, but a reporter talking to dozens of voters at the polls Sunday could not find a single one who was planning to vote for him. Allegations of fraud are a usual part of Haitian elections but not on the scale of the claims Sunday, coming from thousands of people and the majority of candidates, including at least two of the frontrunners, Manigat and Martelly, who signed the declaration.

But the electoral commission and UN officials seemed to be living in some other reality and declared that all was well. HaitiLibre also describes the status and the apparent fantasy the UN is living in.

Twelve of the 18 candidates in the Haitian presidential election, denounced at a press conference at the Karibe Convention Center, massive fraud and irregularities. They issued a unanimous call for the annulment of the election, following protests from voters who could not vote and many cases of fraud and irregularities observed since the official opening of polling stations.

Three candidates for the presidential election in Haiti, which are Mirlande Manigat, Yvon Neptune and Jacques Edouard Alexis have denounced the fraud and demanded the annulment of the elections, adding their voices to those of other candidates favorable to the end of this sham democratic election …

Patrice Dumond, spokesman for the candidate Manigat “It’s not just fraud, it’s a scandal, a real kidnapping of elections”. Mirlande Manigat during the press conference said “I request the formal CANCELLATION of all electoral activities throughout the territory, what is happening now it’s brigandage organized […] Some State institutions are complicit in this brigandage”. For his part Jacques Edouard Alexis, also requested the cancellation of the poll citing a series of irregularities and involving President René Préval “I do not want an election with him”.

As for Yvon Neptune, also in favor of a cancellation, asks “What can we do in the meantime for good elections? We need a solution between all candidates”.

At Acul-du-Nord and Trou du Nord elections were cancelled. Violent incidents also occurred at Acul du Nord and Trou du Nord, near Cap-Haitien.

Patrick Julien mayor of Acul-du-Nord, said that people were ready to vote, but supporters of the candidates have fired in the air, there have been wounded and he himself was not able to vote “men armed with machetes ransacked six polling stations, elections were canceled,” he said.

At Trou-du-Nord, Mayor Jacques Gustave said a crowd had entered the offices and ransacked polling stations, “the ballots were thrown everywhere, the president of the pooling station made an official report and canceled the election”

At Desdunes in the north, after incidents and gunfire that resulted in injuries, Minustah has sent Sunday morning a half-dozen of armored vehicles “to regain control of the situation.”

Recall that this morning the head of the UN mission in Haiti (Minustah ), Edmond Mulet stated “In general everything goes well, all is quiet. There have been some incidents at Desdunes, minor incidents.” Edmond Mulet said there is no reason to be afraid”. “It’s a electoral feast”… Une déclaration, qui devant les moyens utilisés pour rétablir l’ordre se passe de commentaire…

Case of UN cholera reaches Florida from Haiti while UN “spins” information

November 18, 2010

UPDATE from Operational Biosurveillance:

Current official stats are more than 18,382 cases and 1,110 fatalities.  This includes more than 1,800 cases in Port au Prince with over 30 fatalities.

  • Conservative estimates therefore suggest 75,000 cases of cholera in Haiti to-date, the majority of which were subclinical.
  • In some areas of Haiti, we have confirmation that in-patient statistics are under-reported by as much as 400%. In many areas of Haiti, we are documenting outbreaks that are not being accounted for in the official statistics.  We therefore estimate the upper bound of estimated case counts to be 250,000.
  • We are now pursuing answers to the question of uptake by indigenous zooplankton and spread along oceanic currents that pass west of the Gonave Gulf, which is where the Artibonite River discharges, north and west along the northern Cuban coastline and north to the waters east of Florida.
  • Tomorrow is Vertieres Day, where we may see some degree of population mixing, particularly in the north.  It is unclear at this time to what degree the recent violence will affect observance of the holiday.  Holidays are opportunities to spread disease further as populations intermingle.

As noted by HEAS one week ago and yesterday officially acknowledged, cholera is in the  Dominican Republic.  We expect to see medical clinic inundations inside DR in the near future.

As expected, Florida has reported a case of cholera in a returned traveler.  There will be more cases in the United States; we believe it likely more cases are inside the US unreported.  Implications for the United States are neglible.

The cholera introduced into Haiti by the UN has spread not only into the Dominican Republic but also to Florida through a traveller from Haiti. Diplomats have confirmed that the disease has come with UN troops from Nepal where the disease is endemic. It is unlikely to spread in the US since the propagation of cholera is through water or food that is contaminated by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  For an epidemic, the source is often the feces of infected people. The New York Times reports:

The first known case of cholera in the United States linked to the outbreak in Haiti was confirmed Wednesday by health officials who said a southwest Florida woman contracted the disease while visiting family in a region at the heart of Haiti’s epidemic.

The Florida Department of Health was investigating several suspected cases of the disease elsewhere in the state. They were not believed to be connected to the verified patient, who sought treatment this month at a hospital emergency room in Collier County. The woman spent five days in hospital after developing diarrhea and dehydration, classic symptoms of cholera, following her return from Haiti, where she had spent time in the Artibonite region. She is expected to recover fully.

“We are lucky in the state of Florida, and the U.S. generally, to have a very sound infrastructure for our food, water and sewage,” said Rob Hayes, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health. “With that in place, and with our aggressive public health practices, we are not concerned about this being a significant public health threat.”

The situation is more dangerous in the Dominican Republic where conditions are more conducive to the spread of the disease. In Haiti official reports give over 1100 deaths and over 18,000 infected.

There are reports that the actual number of cases may be being grossly under-reported.

On November 14, Operational Biosurveillance said it confirmed statistics of up to 400% undercounting.

“We now have nearly 60k cases shedding pathogen into the environment. We believe the true statistic to be closer to more than 100k based on the degree of under-reporting. It is extremely difficult to estimate the true scale of this epidemic now. (It’s) grossly uncontrolled, uncontained, (and) has exceeded public health capacity to investigate and assess every site reported and every sample received.”

It seems that political considerations are now leading to all information being subject to political “spin”.

  1. For reasons of not upsetting the Nepalese Government and to defuse the local anger, the UN officially denies that the cholera originated with the troops from that country.
  2. With elections due in Haiti in just two weeks all information about the cause of the outbreak and the extent of the spread is being down-played to avoid further exploitation by some politicians and further riots.

Haiti – till now – had been free of cholera for over a hundred years. No doubt the priority now must be to treat those infected and contain the spread of the disease. But UN processes are clearly wanting and the sooner they come out of “denial” and address their own methods and processes the better.

Cholera in Haiti introduced by UN Nepalese troops confirms Swedish Ambassador

November 16, 2010
A man, apparently turning on a water pipe, is ...

"Turning on the cholera": Image via Wikipedia

It would seem that the cholera tap in Haiti was “turned” on by UN troops.

Translated freely from Svenska Dagbladet:

Violent riots have erupted in Haiti after rumors of the cholera infection
having originated from the Nepalese UN staff – something which the UN denied. But now, the Swedish Ambassador Claes Hammar has confirmed that the rumor is true. ” I’ve had it confirmed by a diplomatic source that the cholera comes from Nepa ” he told Svenska Dagbladet.

Since the earthquake on 12 January, cholera has taken hold in the extreme poor living conditions in Haiti. The epidemic broke out in October and since then more than 900 people have died and 15 000 are believed to be infected.

Violent riots broke out yesterday in the cities of Cap Haitien, Hinche and Milot, when hundreds of people attacked the UN mission, MINUSTAH. The riots began after a rumor that previously infected Nepalese UN personnel took cholera to the island. The UN has always denied the rumors.

But now Claes Hammar, Sweden’s ambassador to the country has confirmed for Svenska Dagbladet that the information is correct. Two weeks ago he visited Haiti. “Yes, unfortunately it is so. It has been shown that the cholera is from Nepal. This is obviously a strain of the disease that is prevalent in Nepal and now it seems that to have ended up in Haiti. I have received the information from a diplomatic source. It is 100 percent accurate. We have taken samples and traced the infection to Nepal”.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the cholera epidemic in Haiti came from South Asia, but it had not identified any specific country. Cholera has never previously been detected in Haiti.

The cholera began to spread in areas that were not affected by the earthquake and only after the Nepalese forces arrived. The UN has also accepted that health problems exist at the UN base, but says that the soldiers are not behind the cholera outbreak.

“It is of course very sad that this has happened. But one should not forget the disease spreads because of poor hygiene. The UN is making great efforts to combat the outbreak “, said Claes Hammar.

The violence that erupted yesterday in Haiti occurred just two weeks before presidential and parliamentary elections due on November 28. Svenska Dagbladet can also reveal that, according to an internal UN report it is the notorious rebel leader Guy Philippe, wanted by U.S. authorities for drug smuggling, who is behind the riots.  He is thought to have started the riots across Haiti by sending out many text messages in which he asked the locals to attack the UN force. The UN headquarters in Cap Haitien was attacked by hundreds of people who threw stones and bottles.

The violence escalated later in the day, when several police stations were attacked and burned down. A hospital in the town of Milot was attacked by hundreds of people protesting that the hospital was accepting cholera patients. At the same time the Nepalese UN troops were subjected to stone throwing by a large crowd in the town of Hinche. The soldiers responded with tear gas. Local people also opened fire on UN troops in Cap Haitien who were forced to shoot back in self defense, according to a statement from the UN.
Two Haitians have died and dozens were injured in the disturbances. Seven of the United Nations force were injured.

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