Protesters who hold UN soldiers from Nepal responsible for a deadly outbreak of cholera which has killed nearly 1,000 people have barricaded Haiti’s second-largest city, burned cars and stoned a peacekeeping base.
The protesters also blame the Nepalese unit there for the death of a Haitian youth at the base in August.
Demonstrations began in Cap-Haitien and within hours paralysed much of the northern port city, national television reporter Johnny Joseph said.
A television cameraman trying to reach the area was repelled late on Saturday by protesters throwing rocks and bottles from a barricade.
Protesters have also targeted other UN bases and Haitian national police stations in the city. Haitian radio reported a police substation was burned.
UN soldiers and Haitian police fired tear gas and projectiles to disperse at least 1,000 protesters at the Nepalese base, Haitian radio reported. At least 12 Haitians were injured, Radio Metropole reported. There were no reports of injuries to UN personnel or other foreigners.
He blamed political actors for stoking the unrest. “It looks like the demonstration began in three or four parts in the city in a simultaneous way that means it was planned ahead or organised,” he said.
The protest comes as Haiti approaches national elections on November 28. The cholera backlash is rooted both in fear of a disease previously unknown to Haiti and internationally shared suspicion that the UN base could have been a source of the infection.
A case of cholera had never before been documented in Haiti before it broke out about three weeks ago. Transmitted by faeces, the disease can be all but prevented if people have access to safe drinking water and regularly wash their hands.
President Rene Preval addressed the nation on Sunday to dispel myths and educate people on good sanitation and hygiene. But sanitary conditions do not exist in much of Haiti, and more than 14,600 people have been admitted to hospital as the disease has spread across the countryside and to nearly all the country’s major population centres, including the capital, Port-au-Prince.