UN chief: Haiti panel to investigate cholera outbreak

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed an independent panel to investigate the source of a cholera outbreak that’s killed nearly 3,000 people in Haiti, his spokesman said Thursday.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the four-member panel is comprised of international health experts with wide experience working with cholera and will operate fully independent of the United Nations.

Panel members will review all information available to date, and will travel to Haiti to conduct an on-the-ground investigation, said Neskiry. They will be given access to all U.N. records, reports, facilities, and staff, he added.

The panel will present a written report of its findings to the U.N. chief and the Haitian government.

Some blame the outbreak on U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal because the first cases were found last year near their base in Haiti. But the U.N. has said it has not found a conclusive link.

“The Secretary-General has been deeply concerned by the cholera outbreak in Haiti since the first cases were detected,” Nesirky said. “Determining the source of the cholera outbreak is important for both the United Nations and the people of Haiti.”

Ban announced Dec. 17 that he would form the independent scientific panel early this year.

Since then, the spokesman said, Ban has been working the World Health Organization and other agencies to identify leading technical experts in public health, epidemiology, microbiology and water and sanitation to serve on the panel.

The panel chairman is Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, a Mexican who works at the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. The other three panel members are Peruvian Dr. Claudio Lanata of the Instituto de Investigacion Nutritional in Peru, American Dr. Daniele Lantagne of Harvard University, and Indian Dr. Balakrish Nair of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in India.

Nersiry said Ban chose the panel members for “their global stature, expertise and extensive experience working with cholera in all its aspects.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press