MIREBALAIS, Haiti (AP) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that a U.N. peacekeeper was responsible for bringing the cholera strain to Haiti but may not have known that he was doing so.
Cholera has killed more than 7,000 people and sickened more than 526,000 others since it was introduced to Haiti in 2010. The disease hadn't been seen in Caribbean country before that.
"I don't know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the UN peacekeeper, or soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus," Clinton told reporters at a hospital. "It was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians."
But Clinton added that what "really caused" the cholera outbreak was the country's lack of proper sanitation.
"Unless we know that he knew or that they knew, the people that sent him, that he was carrying that virus and therefore that he could cause the amount of death and misery and sickness, I think it's better to focus on fixing it," Clinton said.
Clinton made the remarks after he toured a new hospital in the Central Plateau of Haiti in his role as U.N. special envoy to the impoverished Caribbean country.
Studies have showed that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal likely introduced the disease to Haiti when it surfaced for the first time, months after the January 2010 earthquake.
An international panel appointed by the United Nations blamed the outbreak on bad sanitation.
The cholera outbreak prompted a Haitian law firm and its international partner to file a complaint against the United Nations last year, which is under review by the world body's legal office.
A spokeswoman from the U.N. peacekeeping mission said she couldn't comment because she did not hear Clinton' s statement.