Cholera in the time of MINUSTAH: experiences of community members affected by cholera in Haiti

Susan Bartels, Georgia Fraulin, Stephanie Etienne, Sandra C. Wisner, Sabine Lee

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In 2010, Haiti experienced one of the deadliest cholera outbreaks of the 21st century. United Nations (UN) peacekeepers are widely believed to have introduced cholera, and the UN has formally apologized to Haitians and accepted responsibility. The current analysis examines how Haitian community members experienced the epidemic and documents their attitudes around accountability. Using SenseMaker, Haitian research assistants collected micronarratives surrounding 10 UN bases in Haiti. Seventy-seven cholera-focused micronarratives were selected for a qualitative thematic analysis. The five following major themes were identified: (1) Cholera cases and deaths; (2) Accessing care and services; (3) Protests and riots against the UN; (4) Compensation; and (5) Anti-colonialism. Findings highlight fear, frustration, anger, and the devastating impact that cholera had on families and communities, which was sometimes compounded by an inability to access life-saving medical care. Most participants believed that the UN should compensate cholera victims through direct financial assistance but there was significant misinformation about the UN’s response. In conclusion, Haiti’s cholera victims and their families deserve transparent communication and appropriate remedies from the UN. To rebuild trust in the UN and foreign aid, adequate remedies must be provided in consultation with victims
Original languageEnglish
Article number4974
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: We are thankful to all the participants who shared their experiences and perspectives regarding cholera in Haiti. We are also very grateful to the research assistants for their commitment and hard work, and to BAI, KOFAVIV and the former ETS for their support and guidance in conducting this research. We appreciate Laurie Webster’s assistance with the quantitative analysis (QED Insight). The project would not have been possible without the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK.

After years of denial and silence, in December 2016, the UN formally apologized for its role in the cholera epidemic in Haiti. In doing so, the UN declared a $400 million two-track approach to assistance in Haiti called “A New Approach to Cholera in Haiti” (New Approach) implemented through the United Nations Haiti Cholera Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) [13]. Track one included an ongoing effort to reduce the incidence of cholera by improving access to healthcare and addressing sanitation and water issues in Haiti, while track two included a promise of “material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera”. Calling on their “moral responsibility,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged voluntary funding from UN member states through the UN Haiti Cholera Response MPTF [14]. However, there were no measures put in place to ensure the adequate funding of the plan. In 2017, when the voluntary contributions had not been realized, the General Assembly of the UN asked member states to reallocate $40 million of unspent funds from MINUSTAH to address cholera in Haiti [15], with 31 countries having approved reallocation of the balance [16]. In June 2020, approximately $20.7 of the requested $400 million had been raised for the UN Haiti Cholera Response MPTF (5.2%) and the total use of these funds was only 50.4% [16].

Funding: Research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant # AH/P008038/1, Principal Investigator, Sabine Lee) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (grant # 890-2016-0110, Principal Investigator, Susan Bartels).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Haiti
  • United Nations
  • cholera
  • diarrhea
  • peacekeeping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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