U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Friday the creation of an independent panel to investigate Haiti's cholera epidemic, which some Haitians have blamed on U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal.
More than 91,000 people have been sickened by cholera and over 2,000 have died in Haiti since the outbreak started in October. Last month, protesters stoned a U.N. patrol and shouted slogans accusing the U.N. mission of bringing the disease.
Last week, U.S. researchers reported that the cholera strain came from south Asia and mostly closely resembled one circulating in Bangladesh. The United Nations has so far said there is no scientific evidence the Nepalese battalion is responsible and all tests on its troops have proved negative.
But with the accusations persisting, Ban said, "There remain fair questions and legitimate concerns that demand the best answer that science can provide."
He told reporters that after consulting World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan he was setting up an international panel that "will be completely independent and have full access to all U.N. premises and personnel."
Ban said names of those on the panel would be announced as soon as possible. Members would include an epidemiologist and and a microbiologist, he added.
"We want to make the best effort to get to the bottom of this and find answers that the people of Haiti deserve," the U.N. chief said.
Cholera is caused by a bacterium that thrives in water. It is spread when infected fecal matter gets into unchlorinated water, seafood such as shellfish or other food.
U.N. investigations so far have focused on effluent from latrines at the Nepalese battalion headquarters. The U.N. mission, known as MINUSTAH, first went to Haiti in 2004 following civil strife in the Caribbean nation.
Ban noted that there were several theories on the origins of the cholera outbreak in Haiti and that "not all reports have reached the same conclusion."
ReutersLast Mod: 18 Aralık 2010, 10:34