Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Panel probes Haiti cholera outbreak

Almost a year has passed since the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 220,000 (AP)

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has appointed an independent panel to investigate the source of a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 3,000 people in Haiti.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the four-member panel of international health experts had wide experience working with cholera.

Panel members would review all information and will travel to Haiti to conduct an on-the-ground investigation, said Mr Neskiry. They will be given access to all UN records, reports, facilities, and staff.

The panel will present a written report of its findings to the UN chief and the Haitian government.

Some blame the outbreak on UN peacekeepers from Nepal because the first cases were found last year near their base in Haiti. But the UN has said it has not found a conclusive link.

"The secretary general has been deeply concerned by the cholera outbreak in Haiti since the first cases were detected," Mr Nesirky said. "Determining the source of the cholera outbreak is important for both the United Nations and the people of Haiti."

Mr Ban announced on December 17 that he would form the independent scientific panel early this year.

Since then, the spokesman said, he has been working the World Health Organisation and other agencies to identify leading technical experts in public health, epidemiology, microbiology and water and sanitation to serve on the panel.

The panel chairman is Dr Alejandro Cravioto, a Mexican who works at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. The other three panel members are Peruvian doctor Claudio Lanata of the Instituto de Investigacion Nutritional, American Dr Daniele Lantagne of Harvard University, and Dr Balakrish Nair of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in India.

Mr Nersiry said Mr Ban chose the panel members for "their global stature, expertise and extensive experience working with cholera in all its aspects".