At least two people have been killed during clashes between protesters and UN troops in Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has claimed over 900 lives in about three weeks.
Protesters, who hold Nepalese UN peacekeepers responsible for the cholera outbreak, threw stones and threatened to set fire to a base in the country’s second-largest city of Cap Haitien on Monday, Haitian radio and eyewitnesses reported. There are also unconfirmed reports that one UN peacekeeper has been shot dead. The UN has denied that the Nepalese mission is responsible for the outbreak.
Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, en route to Cap Haitien, said that the situation “has been brewing for a while” with “very tense relations” between the UN peacekeepers stationed there and the local community.
“Back in August, a 16-year-old boy was found dead – he was hanging from a tree. And the Haitians believed that he was killed by the troops up there,” she said. But the troops claimed the boy had committed suicide, and there was never a formal investigation into the boy’s death, she added. “As you can see, this is really the next phase of this deadly cholera outbreak – this real frustration against the troops – and these people in this community also believe that the UN troops, particularly the Nepalese, are responsible for bringing cholera into this country.”
There are Nepalese as well as Chilean troops in Cap Haitien. This isn’t the first protest in Haiti, where crowds have taken to the streets, expressing anger at the Haitian government and the UN for failing to contain the outbreak.
There are now cholera cases in every part of Haiti and UN agencies expect a “significant increase” in the number of people affected, a top UN official said on Monday. “We have cases in every department,” Nigel Fisher, a UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Haiti, said.
The UN and Haiti government had started a review of the epidemic and Fisher said that officials “foresee a significant increase” in the number of cases. He also said it was not unusual for hundreds of thousands of people to be hit by cholera in such an epidemic but added that many would be mild cases. Dr Jim Wilson, from the Haiti Epidemic Advisory System, told Al Jazeera that the protests would make controlling the epidemic even more difficult. “What it means, ultimately, is more lives will be lost to the disease if we cannot get in there to provide medical support,” he said.
The Haitian health ministry’s latest figures put the number of dead at 917 with more than 14,600 people treated in hospitals.