After two years and 7,500 dead, cholera still plagues Haiti

A demonstrator carries a sign during a protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 19 calling for United Nations peacekeepers to leave the country. The protest marked the second year anniversary when cholera strain was introduced into the country by Nepalese peacekeepers. The sign reads, “Justice for 7,000 dead, 500,000 others that lie down in hospital with disease outbreak.” (CNS/Swoan Parker, Reuters)

Hundreds of Haitian demonstrators took to the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, Oct. 20, calling for the United Nations to withdraw all of its troops from the country.

The vocal demonstration came days before the second anniversary of the outbreak of cholera in the Caribbean nation.

The U.N. force, known as the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, is widely believed to be the source of the disease.

A U.N. investigation into how the water-borne disease was introduced was inconclusive. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2011 said U.N. soldiers from Nepal stationed in Artibonite department were the most likely source.

Established in 2004 to help the poorly equipped Haitian National Police maintain security, the size of the MINUSTAH force was increased following the January 2010 earthquake.

As of Oct. 11, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population reported 600,885 cholera cases and 7,568 deaths across the country. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told Reuters last month that the epidemic has been brought under control.

The U.N. Security Council Oct. 12 voted to maintain the MINUSTAH force but to reduce its number by 15 percent immediately. Full withdrawal is expected by June.

Haiti continues to struggle since the massive earthquake claimed more than 300,000 lives. The U.N. estimates that 390,000 people remain in tent camps scattered across the earthquake zone.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton visited northern Haiti Oct. 22 to help open an industrial park in Caracol, near Cap Haitien. The project represents part of the aid the United States has pledged to help the country recover from the earthquake and includes a power plant that will provide electricity to the new garment factories.

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