Ten months after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, cholera appeared in Haiti for the first time in nearly a century. The outbreak subsequently claimed over 4,500 lives, sickened almost 300,000 people, and continues to cause infections and deaths in Haiti. The source of the cholera has been controversial, with hypotheses that the pathogen that causes cholera (Vibrio cholerae) arrived into Haiti from the Gulf of Mexico due to tectonic shifts resulting from the earthquake, evolved into disease-causing strains from non-pathogenic strains naturally present in Haiti, or originated from a human host who inadvertently introduced the strain into the Haitian environment. A specific form of the third hypothesis, that soldiers deployed from a choleraendemic country to the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were the source of the cholera, is a commonly held belief in Haiti.
In order to determine the source of the outbreak definitively, the Secretary-General of the United Nations formed an Independent Panel of four international experts (the “Independent Panel”), with a mandate to “investigate and seek to determine the source of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti”. To fulfill this mandate, concurrent epidemiological, water and sanitation, and molecular analysis investigations were carried out.