PORT-AU-PRINCE- Just over a week after a French expert blamed U.N. Nepalese peacekeepers for starting the Haitian cholera epidemic there, the United Nations yesterday said it is exploring the establishment of an international scientific panel to look into the source of the disease.
`We are calling for an international panel and we are in discussions with WHO [the UN World Health Organization] to find the best experts to be in a panel, completely independent… [and] have the best investigation on the source of the outbreak,` the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Alain Le Roy, told a press conference at UN Headquarters.
The Department later added that the Secretary-General is in discussions with interested stakeholders, including WHO, and that the panel will be completely independent and will have full access to all UN premises and personnel.
The specific terms of reference will be established in the coming days and the SG may have more to say on this on Friday.
Le Roy said experts who have studied the epidemic have so far come up with different theories on the origin of the infection. The peacekeeping chief added that none of the Nepalese peacekeepers had tested positive for cholera or shown any symptoms of the disease, and that repeated analyses of water from their camp have not detected the strain of the disease blamed for the epidemic.
Haiti`s cholera epidemic, which broke out in October, has already killed more than 2,000 people, according to figures from Haiti`s Ministry of Health. Some 44,000 others are hospitalized, even as the country struggles to recover from the January quake, which killed 200,000 people and displaced some 1.3 million others – most of whom are still living in crowded and unsanitary tent camps.