At least one Haitian was killed in a clash with UN peacekeepers on the outskirts of Cap Haitien, Haiti, on Tuesday. The man was shot amid mass protests in response to the rapidly spreading Cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1,000 people and which many Haitians believe was spread by the mostly Nepalese UN forces. Haitians protesters in Cap Haitien and Hinche reportedly threw stones and set up burning barricades to which the UN troops responded by firing tear gas. According to the UN, the protestor who was shot had first fired at a UN soldier, who fired back in self defense.
The protesters were demanding the departure of peacekeepers and the end of the MINUSTAH stabilization mission, which has been a presence in Haiti since 2004. However, the confirmation of Cholera cases in Port-au-Prince and all of Haiti’s 10 provinces is largely responsible for the unrest. As Haiti nears the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake, many of its social services are provided, not by the government, but by the multitude of non-governmental organizations that are currently on the ground. Given the damaged and largely decentralized health care system, access to adequate care is still scarce.
Though fear and anger surrounding Cholera is no doubt the primary agitator behind this week’s protests, the UN believes violence and political manipulation surrounding the presidential elections could also be responsible. The Haitian elections commission may choose to postpone the elections, scheduled for November 28, given the heightened risk of Cholera contamination and Haitian people’s reluctance to leave their homes to vote.