UN faces heat over Haiti cholera

Cap Haitien residents protest against peacekeepers for second day over outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people.

Protests have occurred in northern rural areas following cholera outbreak [Alessandro Rampietti – Al Jazeera]

Locals in Haiti’s second city of Cap Haitien have clashed with UN peacekeepers for a second consecutive day, throwing stones at patrolling teams and calling for their removal from the country.

The incidents on Tuesday morning came a day after the deaths of at least two people during clashes between residents and UN troops during a protest over an outbreak of cholera that has killed at least 1,000 people, according to official figures.

Some Haitians blame Nepalese peacekeepers for the epidemic.

Protesters threw stones and threatened to set fire to a base in Cap Haitien on Monday, Haitian radio and eyewitnesses said.

The violence prompted Rene Preval, the president, to plead for calm barely a week before a general election that will see his successor chosen in the first poll since January’s earthquake killed 250,000 people and flattened Port-au-Prince, the capital.

Preval said “disorder and instability have never brought solutions to a country going through hard times”.
“You must be even more watchful of those who exploit the country’s misfortunes for their own benefit,” the president warned in a recorded message that denounced unnamed groups for taking advantage of the epidemic and fanning discontent.

“Gunshots, throwing bottles, barricades of burning tires will  not help us eradicate cholera bacteria. On the contrary, it will prevent the sick from receiving care and to deliver medicine where it is needed.”

The UN insists that the Nepalese mission is not responsible for the outbreak, and linked the protests to the upcoming presidential election.

They also appealed to Haitians not to allow themselves to be manipulated by “the enemies of stability and democracy”.

“The way the events unfolded leads to the belief that these incidents were politically motivated, aimed at creating a climate of insecurity ahead of the elections,” the UN mission said.

The epidemic now appears to be crossing over to neighbouring Dominican republic, as the first case is detected in the country.

Bautista Rojas, the health minister, told reporters on Tuesday that a 32-year-old Haitian-born man was being treated in the eastern town of Higuey.

‘Civilian uprising’

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, reporting from Haiti’s Artibonite region, said it was very clear that Monday’s protests were “just the beginning” of what locals are calling a “very strong civilian uprising against the UN in Haiti”.

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“We have been speaking to our sources on the ground  in Cap Haitien, they are telling us that … people are on megaphones encouraging people to get out on the streets and to continue telling the United Nations, ‘Get out now’.”

Our correspondent said that protests were likely to happen across the north of the Caribbean country.

“There’s been suggestions of a co-ordinated effort to continue these protests until the UN get out of the country.”

Turner also said the presidential candidates may now canvas votes by promising to evict the UN from Haiti, a policy that could prove popular.

The government told Al Jazeera that it has sent a security team to the city to assess the situation and try to restore order.

Ties have been very tense recently between the UN and the community in Cap Haitien.

There are Nepalese as well as Chilean troops in Cap Haitien.

Past protests

“Back in August, a 16-year-old boy was found dead, hanging from a tree. And the Haitians believed that he was killed by the troops up there,” our correspondent said.

UN troops claimed the boy had committed suicide but there was never a formal investigation into the death.

“As you can see, this is really the next phase of this deadly cholera outbreak – this is real frustration against the troops – and these people in this community also believe that the UN troops, particularly the Nepalese, are responsible for bringing cholera into this country,” Turner added.

Crowds have previously taken to the streets expressing anger at the Haitian government and the UN for failing to contain the outbreak. 

There are now cholera cases in every part of Haiti and UN agencies expect a “significant increase” in the number of people affected, a senior UN official said on Monday.

“We have cases in every department,” Nigel Fisher, a UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Haiti, said.

Jim Wilson, from the Haiti Epidemic Advisory System, told Al Jazeera that the protests would make controlling the epidemic even more difficult.

“What it means, ultimately, is more lives will be lost to the disease if we cannot get in there to provide medical support,” Wilson said.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


The waterborne, bacterial disease kills 100,000-120,000 people every year and infects millions of others.

19 May 2014
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