The panel found that “evidence overwhelmingly supports” the conclusion that the epidemic began via the contamination of the Artibonite River near the troops' base, with a south Asian strain of cholera. In a report published on Wednesday night, it also listed a series of measures that the UN should introduce to ensure its peacekeepers do not introduce cholera to the countries in which they work. But the panel refused to single out the troops for blame, stating that Haitians – who had recently suffered a devastating earthquake – should not have been using the river for drinking or washing.
The group, convened by Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, insisted the crisis was due to a “confluence of circumstances” and “not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual”. Haitians began contracting cholera, a water-borne disease, in October 2010, 10 months after the country was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 250,000 people. Various theories circulated about how the disease, which had not been detected in Haiti in a century, had arrived. These included the evolution of existing diseases or the result of tectonic plate shifts.
But most fingers were pointed at Nepalese UN troops at a base in Mirebalais, around the centre of the country. Nepal had recently suffered an outbreak, and Haitian cases began soon after the troops' arrival. A report published in December by Renaud Piarroux, a French specialist who is one of the world's most eminent cholera experts, said that the troops were indeed most likely to blame. Dr Piarroux, who was sent by France to assist Haitian officials, concluded the epidemic originated in a tributary of Haiti's Artibonite river, next to the UN base. “No other hypothesis could be found,” he said.
Protesters in Port-au-Prince armed with rocks attacked UN facilities and personnel in revenge. The new UN report found that the sanitation conditions at the peacekeepers' camp “were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination” of the river's tributary system. It also said that bacteria from Haitian cases was found to be “very similar, but not identical, to the South Asian strains of cholera”, confirming that the outbreak “did not originate from the native environs of Haiti”.