UN: Peacekeepers' Work Killed Thousands in Haiti

Friday, 06 May 2011 01:47 PM

By Martin Gould

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Thousands of Haitians were killed and hundreds of thousands more sickened because of shoddy construction work U.N. peacemakers carried out in the wake of last year’s devastating earthquake, an official report has revealed. A total of 5,000 are believed dead and another 300,000 sickened by “an explosive cholera outbreak” resulting from bad drainage, Britain’s Independent newspaper reports.

Haiti, U.N. report, earthquake
Haiti's toll had just begun after the earthquake, as shoddy workmanship in the recovery led to more death and sickness, a U.N. report says. (Getty Images Photo)
With the rainy season about to start, officials believe another half million people will catch cholera.

The U.N. team from Nepal built septic tanks that drained directly into a tributary of the Artibonite river in central Haiti. Water from theriver system is used for drinking, cooking, bathing, and washing clothes.

Despite its abject poverty, Haiti had been free of cholera for decades. The cholera strain matches one found in Nepal in 2009, the U.N. report says.

More than 300,000 Haitians died in the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake and its aftershocks. The U.N. and other agencies have faced mounting criticism for poor handling of refugees since. Around 750,000 people are still living in squalid refugee camps.

The septic tanks at the Mirebalais Minustah refugee camp were not sufficient to stop human waste flowing straight into the river system. "There is no fence around the site, and children were observed playing and animals roaming in the area around the pit," the U.N. report says.

Cholera bacteria spread from the mountainous region along the length of the Artibonite — the longest and most important river in Haiti — all the way to its delta. The river provided “optimal conditions” for the spread of the disease, especially as most Haitians had no immunity to the disease and hospitals were soon overwhelmed, the report said.

U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said he would convene a task force to "study the findings and recommendations.”



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