How Bickering Aid Workers Brought Cholera to Haiti

United Nations, NGOs fought over water and vaccinations
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2012 2:54 PM CDT
Haitians demonstrate on September 23, 2011 in Port-au-Prince against the UN mission in Haiti.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – A deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti has killed thousands and triggered protests outside a UN peacekeeping base that first leaked the disease into local water supplies. Now the New York Times looks inside the UN mission, its refusal to accept blame for the outbreak, and the internal bickering that stymied efforts to stop it. “This unfolded right under the noses of all those NGOs," says the co-founder of a health care NGO. "And they will ask, ‘Why didn’t they try harder? Why didn’t they throw the kitchen sink at cholera in Haiti?’"

For one, aid organizations wasted time arguing over how to best deliver clean water to the Haitian people (they went with purification tablets). Worse was the internal battle over a pilot vaccination program, which Haiti finally nixed, saying it would show preference to the lucky few. Now, with cholera on the wane but flare-ups likely to come, victims are suing the UN while locals still bathe in the infected water outside the former Nepalese base. Says a father there with his daughter: “If you make it to the hospital, you survive the cholera.” (Read more United Nations stories.)

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