The Stream, August 19: U.N. Played Role In Haiti Cholera Outbreak, Report Says

The Global Rundown

A report sent to the United Nations by a special rapporteur blamed the international organization for a deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti and strongly criticized its response. Cholera is also spreading in the Central African Republic. And in New Zealand, officials are trying to determine what caused a water contamination event that sickened thousands of people. Large swathes of land in India are succumbing to desertification, according to an analysis by the country’s space agency. An initiative in Africa aims to combat drought by developing the continent’s vast groundwater reserves. A town in Alaska voted to relocate due to rising sea levels, and advocates in Detroit warned that funding to help poor residents pay their water bills could run out by the end of the month.

“Over the past year, the U.N. has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.” –Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary general, on the United Nations’ role in a cholera outbreak in Haiti. The U.N. admitted this week that its peacekeeping mission played a part in introducing the illness to Haiti in 2010 and allowing it to spread through contaminated water sources. The organization has long held that it was not responsible for the outbreak, but a report released this month by a special rapporteur refuted that claim and harshly criticized the U.N. for denying its involvement. (The New York Times)

By The Numbers

660,000 cubic kilometers Estimated reserves of groundwater in Africa, most of which are not utilized. Amid severe droughts and chronic water scarcity in some regions of the continent, a new initiative is pushing for the sustainable development of aquifers for irrigation. Guardian

150 people Number sickened by a cholera outbreak in the Central African Republic that has reached the country’s capital. Medical aid agencies say the disease poses a significant risk to communities displaced by fighting, and they are hoping to stop contamination from spreading down the Oubangui River. Reuters

$180 million Estimated cost to move the Alaskan town of Shishmaref away from its current location, where rising sea levels and coastal erosion threaten its existence. The town’s residents voted 89 to 78 this week in favor of relocating. Guardian

Science, Studies, And Reports

Nearly 30 percent of India’s land has been degraded and is at risk of desertification, according to a report by the Indian Space Research Organization that analyzed satellite images. The report blamed deteriorating conditions on population growth, the intensification of agriculture, and deforestation. Reuters

On The Radar

New Zealand is investigating how bacteria infiltrated public water supplies in a North Island town, opening an official inquiry on Thursday. The outbreak infected approximately 3,000 people and forced schools to close earlier this month. Reuters

Funding is set to run out by the end of the month for a program that helps Detroit families pay their water bills. The program was meant to help residents avoid water shutoffs, which the city has aggressively pursued, but it has done little to address underlying problems of poverty, advocates say. Detroit Free Press