The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has released a statement saying the U.N. will not pay compensation for the victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti. Citing section 29 of the 1946 convention, the U.N. will use its legal immunity to avoid claims that it is responsible for the spread of a disease that killed around 7,750 Haitians.
The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a group based in Boston, brought the call for compensation to the U.N. in November 2011, writes the Guardian. The group argued that the cholera infection arrived in Haiti in the form of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal and spread following the country’s epochal 2010 earthquake and humanitarian disaster. A report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in mid-2011 that “there was an exact correlation in time and places between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in Meille a few days after.” In October 2012, a leading U.S. cholera specialist Dr. Daniele Lantagne said, “that the strain of cholera in Haiti is an exact match for the strain of cholera in Nepal,” writes the Guardian.
In his statement, the Secretary General carefully avoided accepting or denying responsibility for the pandemic. He said that, since the outbreak, the United Nations and its partners have worked with the people of Haiti and the Haitian government “to provide treatment, improve water and sanitation facilities, and strengthen prevention and early warning.” He also expressed his “profound sympathy” to those who have suffered because of the illness.
According to Reuters, Ban Ki-moon has contacted the Haitian President Michel Martelly telling him that the U.N. will not pay the $100,000 for families of people killed and $50,000 for victims, requested by the IJDH group in Boston. Maximillien Saint Juste, who was treated for cholera in 2011, told the Guardian that he has faced “discrimination” since contracting the disease. “A lot of people think that cholera cannot be treated entirely; they believe that cholera always sticks in your blood cells,” he said. “The U.N. hasn’t taken responsibility for the fact that they brought cholera to Haiti.”
The CDC report in 2011 found that the disease was introduced from a distant source by a single event, while the U.N. insists that the cholera epidemic was cause by a combination of problems with water, sanitation and public health.