Caribbean 360 reports that a leaked report by French disease expert Renaud Piarroux on an investigation into the cholera epidemic in Haiti has linked the outbreak to United Nations peacekeeping troops. The report, which was commissioned by the French and Haitian governments, suggests that poor sanitation at the UN camp for Nepalese troops–and specifically their toilets’ contamination of the Arbonite River–was the source of the disease that has killed more than 2,000 people in Haiti since October. Pirraoux says that “No other hypothesis could be found to explain the outbreak of a cholera epidemic.”
The document has not yet been made public but the Associated Press said it had obtained a copy from an official on condition of anonymity. Piarroux confirmed to the news agency that he had authored the report but declined to speak about the findings.
In the report, the epidemiologist said that he could not prove there was cholera inside the base or among the soldiers because septic tanks and pipes that would have helped confirm sanitation problems were not there when he visited. Piarroux wrote that “It cannot be ruled out that steps have been taken to remove the suspected fecal matter and to erase the traces of an epidemic of cholera among the soldiers,” pointing towards a possible cover-up. He called for further investigation of the outbreak, improved medical surveillance and sanitation procedures for UN peacekeeping troops, and better support for Haitian health authorities.
Spokesman for the Nepalese army Raminda Chhetri says that “It’s a hypothetical conclusion and we strongly condemn the making of such allegations with no firm evidence or facts. [. . .] I don’t think that we have seen any concrete evidence so far.”
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the organization was “neither accepting nor dismissing” the report, adding that it “needs to be looked into further.”