More than half a million Haitians have contracted cholera, and an advocacy group has filed a complaint with the United Nations blaming the fast-moving epidemic on UN peacekeepers who allegedly allowed raw sewage to leach into a tributary of the nation's largest river.
After half a century without a single case of cholera, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti says, a country already ravaged by a massive earthquake, intractable poverty and waves of political instability has now seen five percent of the population contract the illness, and more than 6,000 people die from it, because of the reckless actions of peacekeepers from Nepal.
"The sickness, death, and ongoing harm from cholera suffered by Haiti's citizens are a product of the UN's multiple failures," states the complaint filed by the advocacy group, which represents more than 5,000 cholera victims and their families. "These failures constitute negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians."
The allegations, announced during a press conference Tuesday, are liable to further heighten tensions between the Haitian people and the more than 7,000 United Nations peacekeepers stationed there on a mission to protect them. In September, ABC News reported on a cell phone video that allegedly showed the brutal assault of a young man at the hands of UN peacekeeping troops from Uruguay. The video sparked street protests and an outcry from Haitians who objected to the lack of accountability for the brigades of blue-helmeted troops that lived on bases inside the country.
While the assault on the Haitian man tapped into what Haitians interviewed by ABC News called a growing sense of distrust of the UN mission there, the cholera outbreak has had more far-reaching and catastrophic implications for the country. The complaint filed Tuesday estimates that more than 457,000 have been infected, some 6,477 have died, and attempts to corral the outbreak have so far proven unsuccessful.
"Once cholera is introduced, it is extremely difficult to eradicate," the complaint says. "The cholera epidemic is expected to persist in Haiti for at least several years."