The Multilateralist

Peacekeeping and the plague

Could the cholera epidemic in Haiti bring down the U.N. peacekeeping mission? Over at U.N. Dispatch, Mark Leon Goldberg looks into the issue: Many Haitians blame a Nepalese contingent for the disease.  On November 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control affirmed that the strain of cholera in Haiti matches a strain found in south-east ...

Could the cholera epidemic in Haiti bring down the U.N. peacekeeping mission? Over at U.N. Dispatch, Mark Leon Goldberg looks into the issue:

Many Haitians blame a Nepalese contingent for the disease.  On November 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control affirmed that the strain of cholera in Haiti matches a strain found in south-east Asia, which only seemed to confirm suspicions that the U.N. was to blame. The UN has not investigated that specific claim, and neither are they likely to do so. If there were a definitive link between U.N. peacekeepers and cholera, it would be politically difficult for the Haitian government to maintain its support for U.N. peacekeepers, which the Haitian government relies on to provide some security and also to train a police force that was decimated by the earthquake. 

His broad point is doubtless correct — the fundamental issue is not how the strain of cholera arrived but the conditions that allowed its spread and prevent effective treatment. But Mark seems to endorse not investigating a public health issue in order to maintain the political viability of the peacekeeping mission, and it’s hard to imagine that’s the best solution.

Update:  Mark comments:  "I’m not endorsing that the UN decline to investigate how it spread. Rather, my intention in the graf that you cite is simply to describe some of the political realities surrounding a formal investigation of the link."

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