A U.N. panel ruled yesterday that the cholera outbreak that swept through Haiti after last year's devastating earthquake originated on a riverbank right by a U.N. camp. But depending on who you get your news from, that's either tantamount to an indictment of Nepalese peacekeeping troops or little more than a nasty coincidence.
Reuters was among the first to report the story yesterday, pointing out in its lead that "a U.N. spokesman said [the finding] could not be seen as conclusive," and later that the four-member panel appointed by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to find the source of the outbreak, "carefully avoided apportioning any direct blame or responsibility to U.N. peacekeepers, citing "a confluence of circumstances" behind the epidemic." The news service, like the officials it was citing, shied away from fully implicating Nepalese troops, who are though by many to have brought the disease with them from Nepal, where it is endemic.
In its report this morning, National Public Radio pulled no such punches. Within the first third of its story NPR notes, "While the U.N. panel stops short of saying Nepalese peacekeepers carried cholera to Haiti, their report says preliminary genetic tests indicate 'the strains isolated in Haiti and Nepal ... were a perfect match.' " It goes on to point out that while the U.N. panel's report cites a confluence of factors, it "does not mince words," declaring, "The sanitation conditions at the [U.N. camp] were not sufficient to prevent contamination of the Meye Tributary System with human fecal waste."