HLLN analysis of Times' cholera article

by Ezili Dantò

If the New York Times applied the “follow the money” journalistic adage, the picture effortless falls into place. The Haiti truth, the names and credentials of who benefits from letting cholera ravage Haiti, earthquake victims die – from all Haiti crisis – their intertwining Boards of Directors, job positions, current and former employers, University alliances, corporate and business connections – would have made this piece Pulitzer prize worthy material…As much as we see the effort for non-bias reporting, NYT still could not transcend what animates the Left-Right game of neutral imperialism and philanthropic white supremacy.

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HLLN analysis to NYT’s cholera article: Playing the Left-Right game of neutral reporting

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1. HLLN major points

HLLN major points on the New York Times’ April 1, 2012 article, Global Failures on a Haitian Epidemic, by Deborah Sontag.

1. The original New York Times (NYT) title’s description of the cholera in Haiti as tainting the UN is not only subliminal racism but an egregious insult to the 7,000 dead Haitians and 539,000 infected with UN cholera. They killed with the most virulent strain of a contagious disease, but Haitians are the ones described in the title as “tainting” the UN.

New York times managed to sprout the standard neocolonial stigmatization of the “diseased” Haitians who “TAINTED” the UN despite their Left and Right game of neutral imperialism and philanthropic white supremacy.

Notice how UN Special Envoy to Haiti, Bill Clinton, is missing in action in this article. Perhaps to deflect from the notion that, in Haiti’s case, the UN is a branch of the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton State Department policies? Instead, a US lawyer, spoke for the UN. Anthony Banbury, the Acting Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

2. The article begins with the first case of cholera and how it killed, goes on to talk about the millions spent by the international community to help the sick. But I don’t believe it mentioned what the UN is doing in Haiti in the first place.  There is less violence in Haiti than in Washington D.C., in Brazil, Mexico, Bahamas,  Jamaica, Dominican Republic. Haiti is not at war and has less violence than most countries in Western Hemisphere. (See UN Global Study on Homicide at pg 93.)

What’s a Chapter 7, peace enforcement UN mission doing in Haiti for 8-years when there is no peace agreement to enforce? The piece also didn’t dwell on what happened to all the collected earthquake monies. If it was about Haiti corruption there most likely would have been at least a mention of this. But Bill Clinton, the over-funded Paul Farmer and the NGOs, nothing about the for-profit hotels they’re building on earthquake monies. Not a word was written about the endemic UN sexual abuse of Haiti children. (See, Girls as young as 13 were having sex with U.N. peacekeepers for as little as $1.) Or, the UN’s continuing negligence, impunity, uselessness and accidents in Haiti. (See, from our archives, in 2008 noting UN troops whose containers negligently and with complete impunity hit the Mirebalais bridge, brought it down, cutting the last land route into the starving city of Gonaives, exacerbating the Gonaives hurricane victims’ sufferings.  “Letter to New York Times Demonizing the Gonaive  Hurricane  Victims.”)

No mention was made of the Haiti riches, minerals, oil, gold, iridium and resources being plundered behind this US occupation masked as a UN “peace enforcement” mission. The UN leaked the cholera disease into Haiti’s water supplies, but no mention was made that amongst the first victims of this environmental poisoning, where hundreds of thousands of healthy agricultural workers losing their lives, health, livelihood or meager food source. No mention that the Clinton Global Initiative sponsors a cholera insurance plan to squeeze monies out of the bare hands of Haiti’s hurting market women and agricultural workers. No mention was made that the first action of UN/USAID was not filtering Haiti water and environmental clean up, but making profit by buying 200,000 body bags from overseas. No mention that the UN-MINUSTAH mission was approved for Haiti with the signature of a former career UN employee, Gerard Latortue, living in Florida who hadn’t live in Haiti for 40years. The real Prime Minister of Haiti was illegally put in jail for two years.

If the New York Times applied the “follow the money” journalistic adage, the picture effortless falls into place. The Haiti truth, the names and credentials of who benefits from letting cholera ravage Haiti, earthquake victims die – from all Haiti crisis – their intertwining Boards of Directors, job positions, current and former employers, University alliances, corporate and business connections – would have made this piece Pulitzer prize worthy material.

Another example of non-neutrality, though perhaps not consciously done is the way Ms. Sontag failed to comment on the fact that the UN’s investigative panel, along with Harvard and the CDC, failed to do a DNA whole genome test on Nepal cholera to compare the bacteria in Haiti despite Haitian eyewitness testimonies of Nepal unsanitary standard at the Mirebalais base. (Read Dady Chery’s Why It Took Eleven Months Instead of Three Weeks to Show that Haiti’s Cholera Is Nepalese: a Tale of Noble and Ignoble Scientists, Harvard, and the U.N. )

“Without exaggerating, one might say, for example, that the cholera study by Harvard (Paul Farmer‘s territory) was analogous to using the most sensitive instruments and best-trained scientists to test for Fukushima radiation everywhere in the globe except Japan, reporting that the meltdowns had probably happened somewhere in Asia, and then proposing that a commission from the nuclear-power companies finish the investigation.” (Why It Took Eleven Months)

The Nepalese soldiers, according to the townspeople,  defecated in the river, were letting their run-off from toilets, leaking pipes and septic tanks go directly into the river for years.

3. Worst, Ms Sontag ended the article by subliminally underlining for us the UN defense.

Sontag’s piece leaves the reader with the image of this animalistic piece of poetry describing : “a naked 6-year-old girl, Magalie Louis, defecated by the bank, gnawed on a stalk of sugarcane and then splashed into the water to brush her teeth.”

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” ― Malcolm X

Her essay did not end by pointing out that Haiti pollutants or naked 6-year-old Haiti girls defecating could not have caused the cholera outbreak. No.  It gave the opposite message. The fact remains Haitians have antibodies for their own pollutants. Ms.  Sontag, as much as we see the effort for non-bias reporting, still could not transcend what animates the Left-Right game of neutral imperialism and philanthropic white supremacy.

It’s evident in how the article ends with the UN’s often-cited DEFENSE  and not the Haiti counter to that defense that there’s a subliminally projected judgement here in this neutral, investigative reporting. The UN wrongdoers must take their victims as they find them, cannot escape liability for the harms they caused by pointing to the vulnerability of the Haiti victims they came supposedly to protect. That just defies logic and all principles of law and equity.

However, minus the double standard, structural and subliminal racism, the article is the most chronologically thorough and high level mainstream media reporting on the matter to date.

Here’s how we see the situation at HLLN.

2. The Set Up. Act 3 to follow

It’s the set up. It’s like watching, in slow motion, a horrific accident. First, former President Bill Clinton comes out and admits the UN brought cholera.

Then NYT finally writes a notable investigative report but quotes Paul Farmer as if he’s just a doctor not a mouthpiece for the UN.

The scrubbing of the Nepal contingent is done. They’re not at the base anymore and a new, more hygiene-conscious UN group replaced them, so the article notes. What’s left except for Farmer to give his IDJH Board of Director buddies, who filed a petition for compensation, a UN mea culpa where the reparation monies goes back into the hands of the same NGOs-UN folks like back in Trouilliot days when the victims of the 1937 Dominican Republic massacres where played by the Haiti government and the international vampires.

Haitians don’t exist unless employed by the vampires – both in the Left and Right game of neocolonialism. They’ve got all the resources and white supremacy allows they’re the only ones who are credible to raise funds for THEIR “cause and case” – meaning Haiti sufferings, disease, poverty and pains the system and their alliances mostly are responsible for. (See also, The White Saviors of Haiti vs. Haitian Self-determination and Actualization by Ezili Dantò, Sept. 17, 2005.)

3. I Feel your Pain

Next time someone who just got to Haiti or has been going there off and on for twenty, thirty years tells you how they’re more Haitian than the native Haitian or “know” what it’s like to BE Haitian. Tell them they don’t.

Describe what you’re feeling from me. They don’t know the shock after shocking humiliation a Haitian suffers in this merciless world – two Bush Regime Changes, 8-endless years of US occupation behind UN guns, the dependency forced upon Haiti with privatization of public assets, US efforts to keep China sweatshop wages lower and lower by using threat of moving their sweatshops to Haiti, the ravages of earthquake, inhumane deportations or indefinite detentions, white saviors from the Left and Right US “democracy” game speaking for Haitians, the UN imported cholera and denial of responsibility, the destruction of Haiti food sovereignty with Clinton Arkansas rice. The soul deep fire and pain. The weight of three hundred years of European beatings, rape, disembowelment and two hundred years of neocolonialism and containment in poverty coupled with victim blaming white supremacy gloating. The agony of working so hard and never being visible or credible unless you stand for Officialdom or work as an employee for their narcissistic Tarzan/Jane shuffle.  (See also, Embedded AP releases a State Department bulletin as “news” on Haiti.)

Si’m pa rele, m’ap toufe.  But we bend, don’t break – nou se rozo. Endure. Use what’s in our hands. Ours, at HLLN, is this writing, defending and political analysis.

Without the pen of Thomas Paine (‘Common Sense’), the sword of George Washington would have been raised in vain. —John Adams

See below the comments Ezili’s HLLN made on the New York times comment section to give the Haiti non-colonial perspective. (See also, Zili Dlo – HLLN’s Haiti-led, Haiti-run relief with human rights, healing and dignity.)

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4. The Four Comments New York Times posted submitted by Ezili’s HLLN, April 1, 1012

A cholera outbreak in Haiti late last year that killed rampantly prompted mass unrest in Haiti's capital. <sup>REUTERS/Allison Shelley
Photo: REUTERS/Allison Shelley (See, Haiti Message on UN responsibility for importing cholera)

1. We posted the NYT article on FB and Twitter when the article came out but noted HLLN had to change the NYT title to “Global Failures with UN-imported Cholera to Haiti

The unlikely happened, NYT originally had the title for this front page, Sunday article, it seems, as “Haiti’s Cholera outraced the Experts and Tainted the UN.”

HAITI’s cholera – TAINTED THE UN? Swear to the Ancestors, that was the title, no lie. I wasn’t going to read the darn thing at all. But noticed a kind soul was also as offended. So I started making comments, calling out the stigmatization of the “diseased” Haitians who “TAINTED” the UN. For whatever reason, Deborah Sontag’s New York Times feature seemed to have changed title alternatively from:

1. Haiti’s Cholera outraced the Experts and Tainted the UN, to
2. Global Failures on a Haitian Epidemic,
and now it’s online as
3. In Haiti, Global Failures on a Cholera Epidemic

Already established is how Ms. Sontag failed to notice the UN, Harvard, CDC cover-ups, overlapping and tight connections, including how the UN’s investigative panel DID NOT immediately do a whole genome test on Nepal’s cholera to compare that bacteria with the bacteria ravaging Haiti. All these are bunched in, if at all, as “delays” not fraud, or cover-up. Simple internal bickering that stymied efforts despite the clearly available evidence of the Paul Farmer sort of NGO conflicts. Funded and holding a job with the wrongdoers but also being the “neutral” doctor and to-go-to person on the UN epidemic.

The Nepalese contingent of UN soldiers, according to the townspeople, had defecated in the river, were letting their run-off from toilets, leaking pipes and septic tanks go directly into the river for years. There was a drainage canal running inside the camp above the toilets running directly into the river tributary, not to mention that all five Nepalese camps in Mirebalais brought their waste to be buried in one spot, not too far from the river, in a shallow landfill.

Haiti Message on UN responsibility for importing cholera

The head of Nepal's mission in Haiti, Lt. Col. Krishna, second from left, and Prakash Neupane, deputy chief of the MINUSTAH engineering section, left, walks by pipes coming from latrines that lead to septic tanks that crosses a canal that leads to the Artibonite River at Nepal's U.N. base in Mirebalais, Haiti, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010. A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 300 people in Haiti matches strains commonly found in South Asia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, intensifying the scrutiny of a U.N. base that is home to recently arrived Nepalese peacekeepers, built on a tributary to the Artibonite River. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
The head of Nepal’s mission in Haiti, Lt. Col. Krishna, second from left, and Prakash Neupane, deputy chief of the MINUSTAH engineering section, left, walks by pipes coming from latrines that lead to septic tanks that crosses a canal that leads to the Artibonite River at Nepal’s U.N. base in Mirebalais, Haiti, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010. A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 300 people in Haiti matches strains commonly found in South Asia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, intensifying the scrutiny of a U.N. base that is home to recently arrived Nepalese peacekeepers, built on a tributary to the Artibonite River. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Ramon Espinosa – AP)******
The head of Nepal's mission in Haiti, Lt. Col. Krishna, center, and Prakash Neupane, deputy chief of the MINUSTAH engineering section, left, enter Nepal's U.N. base in Mirebalais, Haiti, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010. A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 300 people in Haiti matches strains commonly found in South Asia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, intensifying the scrutiny of a U.N. base that is home to recently arrived Nepalese peacekeepers, built on a tributary to the Artibonite River. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
The head of Nepal’s mission in Haiti, Lt. Col. Krishna, center, and Prakash Neupane, deputy chief of the MINUSTAH engineering section, left, enter Nepal’s U.N. base in Mirebalais, Haiti, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010. A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 300 people in Haiti matches strains commonly found in South Asia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, intensifying the scrutiny of a U.N. base that is home to recently arrived Nepalese peacekeepers, built on a tributary to the Artibonite River. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Ramon Espinosa – AP.  See also, Farmer relieves himself on Haiti’s dying cholera victims ; Bill Clinton admits UN brought cholera, Haiti raped again, and Corruption uninterrupted in Haiti.)

The Mirebalais U.N. camp where of the Nepalese soldiers lived is built on a tributary to the Artibonite River

The Nepalese negligent contamination was on-going for many years, even prior to the cholera-infected sewage spills and raw feces dumping. But Deborah Sontag certainly ended her article REPEATING, subliminally, that Haitians continued to defecate in the river. This is a verbatim repetition of the UN defense. Though that defense is BESIDES the point. This is what the New York Times’ article leaves the reader with, though she may not have consciously meant to. Like with the title: “Global Failures on a HAITIAN EPIDEMIC.” These choices, say something to the reader even before they read the article. The ending, no matter how seemingly “balanced” the NYT wants to look, also points to the UN’s defense as legitimate. Never mind that Haitians defecating in the river did not give Haiti UN-imported cholera.

Still, HLLN is thankful for small favors.

NYT actually allowed our comment on the title. It’s inaccuracy, subliminal racism, judgement and stigmatization of Haitian to be printed. In 8-years of solidly writing to NYT, this is the FIRST time they’ve made a change in favor of the non-colonial narrative on Haiti.

We’re thankful and appreciative NYT allowed our comments. This may seem a small thing but not in our experience.

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Comment #2.

“Water and sanitation is the only permanent answer. Agreed wholeheartedly. But traditional Western NGOs like the World Bank, IMF and IFS are tools of war for the World War II winners at the UN Security Council, most there holding the old colonial lines and spheres of influences intact.

Haiti doesn’t need any more such “help.” It is not the arrogant-Harvard elitist-Paul Farmer and his WHO/WB pharmaceuticals buddies who save Haitians from disease imported by foreigners like AIDS or cholera. No.

Deport all the 42,000 “charitable” NGOs out of Haiti. End the US occupation behind UN guns that’s only there to help depopulate, use relief monies to build profit-making hotels, like Clinton-Bush Fund and the Red Cross are doing as the people die under tarps, tents, rockslides, mudslides, cholera and floods in the rainy season. Only there to take, such as taking Haiti’s deep water ports up North for the oil, gold, iridium the 99% have been plundering in Haiti behind this humanitarian imperialism since 2004 and now cholera democracy.

Those who would like to support a Haiti-led, Haiti-capacity building work that has NO involvement with the UN or its Paul Farmer Deputy Envoy, consider supporting Zili Dlo: Clean Water for Everyone in Haiti project and our cholera case against the UN for justice. Go to ezilidanto.com/zili and Zili Dlo info at http://bit.ly/qd9Omw and http://bit.ly/vx1X1l.

Haiti doesn’t need charity, Haiti needs justice.”

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Comment #3.
Haiti doesn’t need charity or a hand-out. Haiti needs justice and to get rid of all the NGO and UN saviors. In the 1900s before the US’s first occupation, most Haiti household in the Cap Haitian, for instance, had clean drinking water. We are descendants of the people who built the Citadel and Sans Sousi. Today I read NYT writing that a great stride is made with one water treatment center. It’s good to see this NYT investigative reporting FINALLY some 17 months later. But I wonder if the blame for UN delay and disdain for Haiti life should not also be shared by the media  that works for the Oligarchy which helped take down Haiti’s democracy and bring in the UN for US oligarchy?

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Comment #4

“Haiti crisis, poverty, deaths and foreign-sponsored regime change/coup d’etat is an ATM for the world’s most educated and powerful “leaders.”

The non-colonial narrative on Haiti is that the World Bank through Bill Clinton at the UN presides over more than $2.3 billion dollars raised supposedly for earthquake relief that mostly returns back to the “donor.” This fund is called, by Washington insiders, the “Bill and Hillary” fund. Foreign aid is corporate welfare for the well-connected Washington insider and tied-aid for Haiti. The billions of dollars collected by private charities and donor countries do not ever reach the Haitian people. Only 1cent of every dollar gets to Haiti. Once the cameras are gone the trickle down is used mainly by the light-skin mercenary Haiti subcontractor families to the US-Euro oligarchs, or for giving a local “Haiti face” to the pillage. Consider reading HLLN’s “Corruption Uninterrupted in Haiti” – http://bit.ly/HbrRW3; “Haiti: A time bomb which must be defused immediately ” http://bit.ly/GTBHao or “Bill Clinton admits UN brought cholera, Haiti raped again” at http://bit.ly/yxXZpt .

Those who would like to support a Haiti-led, Haiti-capacity building work that has NO involvement with the UN or its Paul Farmer Deputy Envoy, consider supporting Zili Dlo: Clean Water for Everyone in Haiti project and our cholera case against the UN for justice. Go to ezilidanto.com/zili and Zili Dlo info at http://bit.ly/qd9Omw and http://bit.ly/vx1X1l.&#8221;

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The Ezili Dantò comment not posted by NYT is this:

Comment #5

“Haiti is a farming nation on a tiny Island – 70 to 80% of Haitians are small farmers and entrepreneurs – who could live in peace and prosperity if Haiti was allowed to use the assets of its own nation for the public health and nation building of its own people. Not to feed US-Euro oligarchs’ market and narcissistic needs, or Wal-Mart, JC Penny profit margins or the arrogance, security paranoia of the racist and fearful interested in PROFIT at all cost.

HELP for Haiti would be authentic IF the bankers would help to maximize the use of the nearly $2.5billion per year of direct aid the Haitian Diaspora sends to Haiti. If the politicos, world bankers, Haiti Oligarchy and Western Union financing houses would stop taping into it. Allow a Haiti development bank from these remittances the collateral credit from these yearly remittances – perhaps $1billion dollars for Haitians to build water and sanitation infrastructure, rebuild roads and agricultural self-sufficiency. That would take out the need for MOST of Paul Farmers’ pharmaceuticals and supplements and oral vaccines being washed down with foul or foreign-bought purification tablets, chlorinated water to be swallowed on empty Haitian stomachs.

Next, change the US predatory trade policies, stop dumping Clinton’s Arkansas rice, Monsanto hybrid seeds and don’t block the Haiti Diaspora from investing in the Haiti farmers -providing help with modern tractors and equipment to produce and regain Haiti’s food sovereignty.”

Ezili Dantò of HLLN
April 2, 2012
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United Nations Still Denies its Troops Brought Cholera to Haiti

by Jonathan M. Katz, The Daily Beast, Apr 4, 2012

“..there will probably never be a smoking gun–a thermal video, one might imagine, of the index Vibrio cholerae microbe sloughing out of the base into the Artibonite River system. That is in large part because, as soon as the U.N. base was implicated, principal agencies including the U.N. World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refused to investigate during the critical months when such evidence might have still been present. (Many major U.S. news outlets followed their lead, ignoring the story for weeks and then blasting the very idea of trying to pinpoint the epidemic’s origin.)”

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Aid from the U.S. to Haiti in particular, and the Third World in general, is a way of laundering government paybacks to industry, with USAID usually serving as the intermediary. The aid is not intended to help the recipient but to assist U.S. companies that cannot sell their goods.” – Dady Chery (Poison Seeds, Herbicides, Pushed Again on Haitian Farmers in Spring 2012.)

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How the shock of Martelly ascending to the National Palace, the 2010 earthquake, UN cholera and US regime change 2004 is being used to recolonize and privatize Haiti though death and dependency programs of the World Bankers, UN/US military, 42,000 NGOs

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We Would Rather Die Standing

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United Nations Still Denies its Troops Brought Cholera to Haiti

by Jonathan M. Katz, The Daily Beast, Apr 4, 2012

Picture this: soldiers from a foreign army are stationed near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Sewage running from their base has long polluted the waterway, but the authorities never paid attention. One day a new rotation of soldiers arrives, carrying a deadly bacteria never before seen in the U. S. It enters the water. People get sick, then die. The infection spreads from St. Louis to Memphis to New Orleans, explodes along the Gulf Coast, and from there to every state in the union.

Overwhelmed health responders watch in horror as family after family succumbs. Within a year, five percent of Americans have fallen seriously ill and thousands have died. The president tells a terrified and exhausted nation that it will cost more than the annual national budget to control the disease. Yet no court can hold the soldiers accountable for negligence, or even get them to acknowledge their role in causing the outbreak. “It doesn’t matter,” an army spokesman says.

Such a nightmare is happening right now in Haiti. Cholera erupted on the shores of the country’s most important river in the fall of 2010, downstream from a base that housed U.N. soldiers from Nepal. The disease has sickened half a million people and killed at least 7,000. As health officials and bureaucrats bicker over the best response, the disease is surging again with the spring rains. Haitians are left struggling to deal with the unending epidemic, caused by the very soldiers dispatched to protect them.

A year and a half ago, that last sentence would have been incendiary. Most foreigners assumed that cholera was part of the impoverished country’s landscape, a result of the squalid living conditions that many Haitians found themselves in after the country’s massive 2010 earthquake. Suggesting otherwise was seen as an exercise in reckless scapegoating. But as the Associated Press correspondent in Port-au-Prince, I quickly realized that there was more to the story. For one thing, the outbreak had first been noticed outside of the quake zone in the country’s rice-growing heartland. More startlingly, no one had ever before recorded an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Our resulting investigation in late 2010, along with those of Harvard microbiologists, a French-led team of epidemiologists, and others would uncover a mountain of evidence pointing to the U.N. base as the source of the outbreak. Today Bill Clinton, the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, can casually link the peacekeepers to the epidemic. A summary of the facts to date can sit comfortably as the lead story in Sunday’s New York Times.

Haiti Cholera Epidemic

Demonstrators dance around a fake coffin during a recent protest against the UN in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Ramon Espinosa / AP Photo

But one key group still insists upon doubting the cholera’s source. The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, has steadfastly refused to accept the evidence of its negligence. Aware of its nosediving popularity in Haiti eight years after it was installed, the U.N. has become increasingly defensive in the face of criticism there. The spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky, reiterated on Monday that “it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti … and therefore, at this point, I don’t have any further comment.”

Nesirky ignores the overwhelming evidence implicating the U.N. soldiers: that the disease first appeared in the water next to their base, and that the bacterium was, in the words of a 2011 panel appointed under pressure by the U.N., a “perfect match” for cholera circulating 9,000 miles away in Nepal. But he is right that there will probably never be a smoking gun–a thermal video, one might imagine, of the index Vibrio cholerae microbe sloughing out of the base into the Artibonite River system. That is in large part because, as soon as the U.N. base was implicated, principal agencies including the U.N. World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refused to investigate during the critical months when such evidence might have still been present. (Many major U.S. news outlets followed their lead, ignoring the story for weeks and then blasting the very idea of trying to pinpoint the epidemic’s origin.)

The ever-clarifying picture of how cholera came to Haiti has clear implications for public health. A conversation about how to move troops and other large groups of people from one side of the world to the other without putting vulnerable populations at risk has already begun. The U.N. has quietly removed the Nepalese soldiers from their base, replaced by a Uruguayan contingent that dug a new path for the river farther away from its perimeter and stopped dumping its waste in overflowing pits across the street. It is also installing water-treatment centers on 28 of its bases throughout Haiti, and taking measures to ensure water can no longer go out of U.N. camps, according to mission spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg.

But that alone is of little solace to the people still suffering cholera’s wrath nearby. Many of the epidemic’s first victims still live around the base in Meille, a collection of concrete, thatch, and mud houses spread thin amongst the banana trees. Children splash around in the babbling river where the infection began, women washing and bathing on rocks in the sun. Jonas Fleury used to sell homemade liquor and food to the Nepalese soldiers. He was one of the first to be hospitalized, and his cousin was one of the first to die. “The U.N. polluted the river. I don’t drink from it anymore,” he said, his eyes flashing with fury.

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti has steadfastly refused to accept the evidence of its negligence.

In another time and place, Fleury might have a responsive government, or a forum in which to demand accountability from the organization that ruined his neighborhood, killed his relatives, and changed his way of life. But he does not. That leaves the question to others: What should happen when the people who respond to one set of crises are responsible for creating another? How do peacekeepers intend to promote the rule of law in a country where they are now widely seen as having acted with impunity? By trying to slam the door on inquiry about the origin of the epidemic, they took the debate out of the hands of health authorities and handed it to many of Haiti’s less savory political actors, who have gladly stoked a nation’s anger for their own ends.

Meanwhile at least one group is pursuing redress by legal means. Following the lead of victims of negligence from Love Canal to BP’s Deepwater Horizon, a team of lawyers has filed a petition for relief on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims. The action brought by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, a longtime opponent of the peacekeepers, demands that the UN pay reparations for “gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference.” Their petition also calls for the UN to fund a national program for clean water, adequate sanitation, and appropriate medical treatment. Some of those items are nice ideas to which the UN agencies have paid lip service, but they are currently under no obligation to implement any of them. Moreover, the UN’s forces are protected by a standard agreement shielding its troops from prosecution in the country where they are deployed. If the case proceeds, it could change the ways that soldiers and responders are moved, and conduct themselves, around the world. Such a goal would seem theoretical or even irrelevant to some. But not when it’s your river.

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Jonathan M. Katz was the Associated Press correspondent in Haiti from 2007 to 2011. His forthcoming book about the earthquake and response, The Big Truck That Went By (Palgrave Macmillan), recently won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award given by Columbia Journalism School and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

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