Medical

United Nations apologizes for Haiti cholera spread

United Nations apologizes for Haiti cholera spread

CNN reports that UN Secretary-General issued the carefully worded apology as part of an announcement of a new plan to eradicate the disease. "We are profoundly sorry for our role".

The Secretary-General expressed deep regret for the loss of life caused by the disease.

Costing around $400 million over the next two years, the proposed United Nations package will centre on two different elements, known as "Track One" and 'Track Two.' The former consists of a greatly intensified and better-resourced effort to respond to and reduce the incidence of cholera, through addressing Haiti's short- and longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems and improved access to care and treatment.

While Ban acknowledged that the outbreak was "a blemish on the reputation of United Nations peacekeeping", he did not specifically say that United Nations personnel were responsible for bringing the water-borne disease to Haiti.

For six years, Haitian activists have demanded that the United Nations accept responsibility for cholera in Haiti.

Just months ago, U.N. special rapporteur and New York University law professor Philip Alston said in a confidential report to Ban that the epidemic "would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations".

"We now recognize that we had a role in this, but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all, is a step that would not be possible for us to take", Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.

Haitians in Port-au Prince watch the live-streamed U.N. speech in which the secretary general apologizes for the cholera epidemic

While in August a United Nations spokesperson had admitted the organization needed to "do much more" to address its role in the deadly outbreak, a statement which the UN's own special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said was a "disgrace", this is the first time the Secretary General himself has offered an explicit apology.

Haiti's representative to the UN, Jean Cazeau, said "The UN has shown it can admit making mistakes", adding that the statement represents "a radical change of attitude away from the morally unjustifiable approach from the UN until now". The outbreak started in 2010 when the peacekeepers were transferred from Nepal for an emergency rescue to assist natural disaster victims in Haiti.

"They need to compensate every victim personally, that's what I think", said one of the attendees, Elizane Vilne. More than 9,000 Haitians lost their lives because of the outbreak.

About 100 cholera victims and family members gathered at Joseph's Port-au-Prince office Thursday to hear Ban's message, which will also be shared over Haitian radio in Creole in the coming days.

"Yet", he continued, "I want to stress that on the scale of global humanitarian and development needs, limited sums are required to eliminate cholera in Haiti".

"The most important in the long term is a sustained investment in the health network in Haiti to ensure that water distribution is at a level where water saves and feeds and water no longer poisons as we have seen with cholera", he concluded. A USA federal district court ruled that the U.N.is immune from such suits, and last August an appeals court upheld that opinion. "The secretary-general's avoidance of fully admitting responsibility will undermine the U.N.'s ability to fund-raise for this plan". "This mission is realistic and doable", he said. "It would also require the certainty of sufficient funding to provide a meaningful fixed amount per cholera death", Ban said.

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