KATHMANDU – Nepal’s army denied Sunday that the cholera epidemic that has taken more than 2,000 lives in Haiti was introduced into the Caribbean country by Nepalese soldiers serving as U.N. peacekeepers, as claimed by a prestigious French physician in a recent study.
“The report is based on suppositions, not proof,” said army spokesman Ramindra Chettri, adding that three independent studies have demonstrated that no Nepalese peacekeeper was responsible for having carried the disease into Haiti.
The soldiers of the South Asian country who participate in U.N. missions are subjected to assorted medical tests before they are deployed, Chettri said.
“We don’t send anyone on the peace missions who has been infected by a contagious disease,” Chettri said.
He acknowledged, however, that the Nepalese soldiers were not given the test for cholera, since that test is not required by the United Nations.
“There have been no (cases of) cholera in the last year-and-a-half” among Nepal’s troops, Chettri said.
The French Foreign Ministry sent to U.N. headquarters in New York on Dec. 7 the report prepared by Dr. Renaud Piarroux that pointed to Nepalese peacekeepers as the ones responsible for introducing the disease into Haiti.
Piarroux, who is considered to be one of the world’s foremost specialists in the study of cholera, alleged that the disease spread because the sewage from the Nepalese troop encampment drained into the same river from which the residents of the town of Mirebalais draw their drinking water, and that is the town where the epidemic was first noticed a few days after the arrival of the blue-helmeted peacekeepers.
In its own investigation based on several analyses of the river water, the United Nations concluded that the watercourse could not be where the epidemic, which so far has sickened some 100,000 people, originated.
Nepal, where cholera is endemic, is one of the countries that contributes the most forces to U.N. peacekeeping missions.