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In Haiti, Cholera Rages On

Since 2010, Haiti has sustained an ongoing cholera epidemic. In the past few weeks more than 2,000 cases have been reported, and more recently ~100 patients per day are seeking treatment in Port-au-Prince from MSF alone. This is sadly common this time of year due to increased precipitation. Cholera treatment centers must be established in a very particular way to avoid reinfecting recovering patients and prevent transmission to staff and surrounding areas, as demonstrated by this nifty animation. Despite making more than 300 additional beds available, MSF is unable to sustain treatment in the absence of additional funding and human resources.

Contaminated Waterways Bring Cholera (image: J. Silva/Reuters)

This resurgence serves as a reminder that the crisis continues in Haiti against the backdrop of a pending legal proceeding. In October, attorneys for the Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti argued that a class-action lawsuit filed in US Federal Court against the United Nations should go forward despite the organization's diplomatic immunity. The basis of the case stems from cholera's accidental introduction by UN peacekeepers from Nepal. It is scientifically and epidemiologically indisputable that the UN troops were the source, and that improper sewage disposal allowed for contamination of Haitian waterways. IDJH initially sought redress through official UN channels, but these claims were rejected. If the suit goes forward in US court, it would be an unprecedented challenge to the UN's legal immunity. While the legal dispute remains pending, few would argue against the UN's moral obligation to help Haiti eradicate cholera once again...or at the very least, get MSF the beds they need.

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