In an interview with ABC News in September, a top UN official said his organization was deeply concerned about the outbreak, and was devoting resources to combat it. But he did not believe there was conclusive proof that the UN troops were responsible for carrying cholera into Haiti. Anthony Banbury, the assistant secretary general for field support, told ABC News that the UN commissioned four independent research studies with the goal of tracing the origins of the outbreak, but that it remained unclear if the troops were to blame, or if a backpacker or aid worker or tourist was ultimately at fault.
"We don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not," Banbury said. "That's the bottom line."
The Institute for Democracy in Haiti lays out its case in a 37-page complaint, which it filed with the UN under the rules established when the international body first deployed peacekeepers to Haiti. It describes how cholera is endemic in Nepal, how new Nepalese troops arrived in the village of Meille in October of 2010, how the troops failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their encampment, how witnesses described dark plumes of refuse leaching into a major waterway, and how cholera exploded in the region near the Meille camp in the weeks after their arrival.
Further, it cites numerous independent studies that match the strain of cholera to the one in Nepal using DNA and other evidence. One study, published in the medical journal The Lancet in July, found that all the evidence pointed to the Nepalese UN troops.
"There was an exact correlation in time and places between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in Meille a few days after," said the study by leading epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux. "The remoteness of Meille in central Haiti and the absence of report of other incomers make it unlikely that a cholera strain might have been brought there another way."
The advocacy group has asked the UN to empanel an independent claims commission to review their complaint, and award them a financial judgment to compensate victims for their suffering and economic losses. They are also seeking a greater investment by the UN in efforts to eradicate the deadly disease.