Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

FWIW, I work in Haiti, have numerous friends in the UN mission here, and they have long acknowledged this is true. Certainly Haitians know what happened. Talk radio is a big thing here and they've been talking about it forever.

I think the article is probably technically correct in terms of the highest levels of the CDC and UN being sensitive and slow-rolling the news...but I wouldn't say it's as pervasive a cover-up as the article implies.




I was surprised to even see the article posted because I didn't think there was a lot of doubt about this. I have no special knowledge of or interest in cholera, Haiti, or the UN, but I've known since around this time last year that the most recent outbreak was likely caused by UN peacekeepers improperly handling sewage. I stumbled upon this knowledge by... reading about it on Wikipedia. I wasn't even studying Haiti or the relief mission, I was just bored. If there was a cover-up going on, it was apparently the worst cover-up in history. Personally, I would bet on some knee-jerk untruths on top of a heaping pile of incompetence rather than a real organized hush job, based on having skimmed Wikipedia again to refresh my memory[0]. For instance, the relief mission initially denied responsibility because they have sanitation standards. I personally would have checked to make sure those standards weren't being ignored before I used them as an excuse so a reporter couldn't find out for me, which is exactly what happened (Note: MINUSTAH is the acronym for the UN relief mission, it makes sense in French):

>MINUSTAH officials issued a press statement denying the possibility that the base could have caused the epidemic, citing stringent sanitation standards. The next day, October 27, reporter Jonathan M. Katz of the Associated Press visited the base and found gross inconsistencies between the statement and the base's actual conditions.

Later, they took groundwater samples ("despite UN assertions that it was not concerned about a possible link between its soldiers and the disease") and announced they tested negative. Lying about test results definitely sounds like something you'd do during a cover-up, except apparently the tests weren't even done right:

>However, an AP investigation showed that the tests were improperly done at a laboratory in the Dominican Republic with no experience of testing for cholera.

I poked around the article that quote cites[1], which claims the tests were conducted at a regular hospital (with a surprisingly spiffy website: [2]) by an obesity specialist. Apparently you'd want those tests run somewhere more specialized because cholera is tricky and you get false negatives all the time. I'm not sure how available those facilities are, maybe there legitimately wasn't a better option, or maybe there was and somebody is just really bad at their job. If there was a deliberate, coordinated deception involved, I'd hope the conspirators would at least find a medical facility that would give their story more credibility.

Attributions to malice or incompetence aside, it's definitely clear that the relief mission and friends have not handled this event very well. There were some amounts of stupefying incompetence and bald corruption, and they should be held accountable regardless of what the proportions were. This extends beyond the current cholera situation, we could just as easily be talking about something like Cité Soleil, a large shantytown outside Port-au-Prince with a history of extreme poverty and armed conflict. That said, the other side of the story is that Haiti is an incredibly troubled country with a history of natural disasters, unstable government, and terrible epidemics. Any country would struggle with one of those, but Haiti wrestles with all of them at once. An earthquake wipes out infrastructure, which allows disease to spread unchecked, which hamstrings the economy, and so on. The relief mission is there because Haiti sorely needs it, even if it sucks and Haitians deserve a better one.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti_cholera_outbreak

[1]: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40280944/ns/health/t/un-worries-it...

[2]: http://www.cedimat.com/en/




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: