PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The UN has refused to pay compensation to over 5,000 Haitian families who have filed claims against the UN, stating that they are the reason behind the cholera outbreak in 2010. They claim the source of the outbreak was UN peacekeepers that recently completed a mission in Nepal, where cholera is endemic. This case has sparked concern in the U.S. congress as well as a human rights group, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). The IJDH has filed claims against the UN demanding millions of dollars in compensation, and will take these claims to court if they have too.
The epidemic in Haiti, which still continues today, has killed 8,136 Haitians and infected more than 650,000. The IJDH and U.S. Democrats have written to the UN about this matter several times, urging to accept responsibility and improve access to clean water and sanitation in Haiti.
“The UN’s latest explanation last week, in response to a letter of May 30 signed by 19 members of the House of Representatives, was a one-line sentence. They and the cholera victims deserve a better and more just response,” said the head of IJDH, Brian Concannon. “There were also disingenuous and not quite accurate claims made about the UN’s progress in combating cholera that haven’t had impact on the ground.”
When the epidemic first began the UN was charged with determining the cause of the cholera outbreak. The 2011 report concluded that while the bacteria did not originate in Haiti, the outbreak was “not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group of individuals.” A later study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sad the UN peacekeeping troops on mission in Haiti from Nepal were likely the cause of the outbreak.
Currently the UN has only allocated $2.2 billion for both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which also is suffering from the disease, over the next 10 years.
“We are dismayed that the United Nations has committed only $23.5 million for this initiative,” the 19 US lawmakers wrote in their letter to the UN. “That is a mere one percent of the total funding required to fund the initiative in Haiti, alone.”
The UN has spent an additional $140 million since 2010 on cholera prevention projects, which have resulted in fewer cholera cases and reduced mortality rates. However Concannon countered, “$140 million to fight against cholera is not that much when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people exposed to the deadly disease and when you think about the UN’s overall budget.”
– Catherine Ulrich