U.N. investigating source of cholera outbreak

Though the United Nations and the World Health Organization have frequently denied claims that the UN Nepalese peacekeepers are the source of Haiti’s current cholera epidemic, the U.N. is now reluctantly agreeing to investigate the possibility.

The previous dismissals by the U.N. may have been one of the primary factors that led to riots in some sections of Haiti this past week, which led to at least three deaths and dozens of injuries, The Independent reports.

Barricaded roads and closed airports stalled relief efforts during the riots as shots were fired and police used tear gas to subdue angry demonstrators. This prevented Oxfam from distributing soap, rehydration salts and hygiene kits in Cap-Haitien, which has the highest fatality rate in the country.

“All the aid agencies have been affected by the violence and protests,” Dr. Unni Krishnan of Plan International said, according to The Independent. “This [Saturday] morning we are just starting to freely move our people and supplies because things seem a little quieter.”

The first confirmed cases of the epidemic were traced along the Artibonite River, which is close by the U.N. base camp that houses around 500 Nepalese guards. Locals had been complaining about the sewage coming out of the base ,which had contaminated the water they rely on for drinking.

While the U.N. has insisted that none of the peacekeepers showed symptoms of the disease, experts were frustrated since 75 percent of people infected with cholera are without symptoms but are still contagious. Since Haiti depends on foreign governments, the U.N. and aid agencies for nearly all supplies, a lack of trust in the U.N. could compromise the stability of the nation.

“The way to contribute to public anger is to lie,” Brian Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy, said, according to The Independent.