On Jan. 6 United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced the names of the four experts who will serve on a panel to investigate the causes of the cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in mid-October. The panel will be headed by Dr Alejandro Craviolo, a Mexican who works with the International Center for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research in Bangladesh; the Peruvian Claudio Lanata, a researcher at the Nutritional Research Institute in Lima; US national Daniele Lantagne, who works at Harvard University; and Indian national Balakrish Nair, director of the National Institute of Cholera & Enteric Diseases in Kolkata (Calcutta).
Secretary General Ban announced the formation of the panel on Dec. 17 in response to strong evidence that disease came from infected Nepalese troops in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 13,000-member police and military force that has occupied Haiti since June 2004 [see Update #1060]. Ban insisted that the panel would be independent.
"What is the head of MINUSTAH looking for with this new inquiry?" the feminist organization Haitian Women's Solidarity (SOFA) asked in a document dated Jan. 5, noting that several experts had already pointed to the UN troops as the most likely source. SOFA called on the Haitian government to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging MINUSTAH with a crime against humanity and to demand that the occupation forces supply vaccinations to the whole population and compensate the cholera victims and the farmers and vendors in the Artibonite and Central Plateau regions who have suffered economically because of the epidemic.
As of Jan. 6 there had been 3,481 deaths from cholera in Haiti, according to government reports; 157,000 people had contracted the disease, and the death rate was 22 a day. As of that date the UN had only received $44 million of the $174 million it had requested from donor nations to fight the epidemic, according to Elisabeth Byrs, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "It's shameful that that the UN appeal to fight against cholera in Haiti should only receive 25% financing," Byrs said. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Jan. 6; AlterPresse, Haiti, Jan. 6)