UN Chief Apologizes for Cholera Six Years Later

  • Posted on: 2 December 2016
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today apologised for the UN’s role in the spread of cholera in Haiti, but stopped short of admitting that peacekeepers brought the disease to the country in 2010. More than 800,000 Haitians have been infected and 9,100 killed in the ensuing epidemic, which was tied to the untreated sewage of Nepalese peacekeepers who arrived just prior to the outbreak in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake. In the more than six years since, the UN has never admitted responsibility. However, Ban recently began to signal a change in direction after an excoriating critique of the UN’s legal approach to the crisis was leaked this August – with just five months left in his term. The report, written by Philip Alston, a professor of law and the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, described the UN’s handling of the epidemic and continued denials as a “disgrace”. Alston called for compensation – rather than simply humanitarian funding – and for the organisation to acknowledge the facts of what took place. The UN responded at that time by stating that it accepted a “moral responsibility” to deal with the spread of cholera. "By admitting it has a moral responsibility, the UN showed it can admit to making mistakes"

Today was very different. Ban opened his remarks with a rare apology on behalf of the UN, spoken first in Haitian Creole, then in French, and finally in English. But it was also carefully worded. “We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti,” he told delegates. “We are profoundly sorry for our role.” Earlier in the day, the UN released further details of the secretary-general’s parallel cholera response plan. The outbreak, the document stated, had become “a stain on the organisation’s reputation”. The response, first outlined in October, calls for a two-track approach, with $200 million delegated for each. The first would fund sanitation and eradication projects; the second – termed “material assistance” – would be aimed more directly at those affected by the epidemic. As he fleshed out details of that second tranche, Ban said consultations with “communities, victims and their families” would continue into 2017. “This support could take many forms, including projects to alleviate the impacts of cholera and strengthen capacity to address the conditions that increase cholera risk,” the secretary-general said. “It could also include projects reflecting community needs not directly related to cholera, such as education grants, micro-finance or other initiatives.” Ban appeared sceptical of the prospect of payments made directly to the families of those who died. UN officials involved in the response have previously told IRIN that such an undertaking would be exceedingly complicated due to difficulties in establishing the identities of victims and their closest family members – something the secretary-general echoed in his remarks.

The major problem is that, effectively, no funding has been promised for that second tranche – the so-called material assistance – a problem IRIN revealed several weeks ago as pressure grew on the secretary-general to deliver on his plans for Haiti’s cholera victims or risk tarnishing his legacy. While member states have expressed a desire to assist Haitians, many are hesitant to pledge money towards track two as it is viewed as being wrapped up in intense internal UN legal wrangling over whether to admit culpability. UN officials have taken pains to not call it “compensation”, and that word appeared neither in the documentation released today or Ban’s remarks. Throughout his speech, the secretary-general appeared to steer away from the type of language that UN lawyers fear could open the UN up to additional legal claims. “For the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself, we have a moral responsibility to act,” said Ban. “And we have a collective responsibility to deliver.” 

The secretary-general’s change of tune was noted and welcomed by Haiti’s ambassador to the UN, Jean Wesley Cazeau. “This approach, I’m happy to highlight, represents a radical change of attitude away from the morally unjustifiable approach used until now by the UN regarding its responsibility in cases where it created or contributed to a serious health crisis by finally recognising it has a fatal [role] in the outbreak and the terrible suffering by the Haitian people,” Cazeau said. “By admitting it has a moral responsibility, the UN showed it can admit to making mistakes.” In a statement, Alston also welcomed Ban’s move to act before leaving office, but he said the secretary-general’s remarks only amounted to a “half-apology”. “He apologises that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place,” said Alston. “It condemns UN fund-raising to make up for its misdeeds in Haiti to a charitable operation, rather than one that is required and which must be funded.   “As a result, there remains a good chance that little or no money will be raised and that the grand new approach will remain a breakthrough on paper, but one that brings little to the victims and people of Haiti.” This summer, a US court of appeals upheld the UN’s immunity in the case of 5,000 Haitian victims who sued the UN over the outbreak. Lawyers involved in the case say they are still considering whether to bring the case to the US Supreme Court.

Photo Credit: Evan Schneider (UN Photo) 

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Al Jazeera

12/2/2016

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has apologised for the first time to the people of Haiti for the international organisation's role in a deadly cholera outbreak that has killed more than 9,300 people and infected more than 800,000. "On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly we apologise to the Haitian people," he said three times, in Haitian Creole, French and English, to the UN General Assembly on Thursday. "We simply did not do enough with regards to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti ... We are profoundly sorry for our role," Ban said.

According to numerous independent experts, cholera was introduced to Haiti by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent to the Caribbean country after the massive 2010 earthquake. Cholera, a disease that is transmitted through contaminated drinking water and causes acute diarrhoea, is a major challenge in a country with poor sanitary conditions. The UN reiterated its rejection of claims that it is also legally responsible for the damages from the health emergency."We do not change our basic legal position," UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson told reporters on Thursday.

The UN chief also formally presented the 193-nation General Assembly with a "new approach", a two-pronged programme to help the families of the cholera victims and support the battle against the disease. The UN hopes the new proposal will raise $400m over two years, but funding for prior UN assistance to Haiti has been slow to arrive.

Ban urged donors to finance the programme and confirmed on Thursday that two programmes were planned, each costing $200m. One will strengthen the fight against the epidemic, which resurged after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country in early October, and improve the country's sanitary infrastructure. Some 72 percent of Haitians have no toilets at home and 42 percent still lack access to drinking water, the UN says.

The other programme includes measures to prioritise aid to cholera victims and their families. It would support locally led projects, such as healthcare, micro-lending and education financing. The UN also plans to directly disburse money for each person who died of cholera. But it is difficult to count and identify all the direct victims of the disease owing to the country's weak statistics. "The community approach is the preferred option," said Eliasson. "Individual payment is difficult." The UN has already raised $18m for the fight against the disease and $132m for sanitation improvement. However, for direct aid to victims, the donations have been much less forthcoming and the modalities of that programme remain unclear.

Miami Herald

Jacqueline Charles

12/1/2016

The day before United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon was set to make the case that ridding Haiti of the scourge of cholera should be a humanitarian funding priority, human rights attorney Mario Joseph wondered whether the outgoing world leader would finally issue a long-sought public apology. For six years, Ban had refused to either apologize or acknowledge the role of his blue-helmeted peacekeepers in introducing the deadly waterborne disease to Haiti during relief efforts after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 300,000. "The U.N. secretary general has always hidden behind lies in order to avoid admitting that they were the ones responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti,” said Joseph, who heads the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a partner of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims.

On Thursday, Joseph finally got the acknowledgment he wanted. Ban, a South Korean diplomat wrapping up his decade-long run as U.N. chief, issued an apology. It’s an important step, many in the Haitian and diplomatic communities hope, to getting U.N. member countries to fund a $400 million plan to eradicate cholera from Haiti, and compensate its thousands of victims. “On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologize to the Haitian people,” Ban said in English after asking “the Haitian people’s pardon” in Creole. “We are profoundly sorry for our role.” In the live broadcast from the U.N. headquarters in New York, during which he detailed the plan, Ban acknowledged that the powerful world body “simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti.” More than 9,000 Haitians have died from cholera and almost 800,000 have been afflicted with it, Haiti’s health ministry has said, since the first case was reported on Oct. 21, 2010, in the Artibonite region after the arrival of Nepalese peacekeepers.

Getting Ban to this point wasn’t easy, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said Thursday, as he called on nations to voluntarily fund the plan. “It wasn’t easy for him to do this,” Eliasson said. “We had a part of this tragedy.” The detailed plans to eliminate cholera, outlined by Ban and in a U.N. report, call for intensifying rapid response teams, strengthening epidemiological surveillance, rapid detection and the reporting and treatments of cases by mobilizing adequate funding. The effort also calls for combining cholera vaccinations with water and sanitation interventions, more focused geographical targeting and strengthened support for longer-term water and sanitation services. A long-term objective also includes Haitians having access to adequate supplies of clean water and functioning sanitation. The investments will be made through a public-private consortium that includes the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. The approach, the United Nations stressed in its report, can only work with sufficient money to pay for it: “For the past six years, both the immediate response and longer-term efforts have been severely hampered by funding shortages which have made it impossible to fully treat or eliminate what is generally a treatable and preventable disease.”

The second track of the plan involves compensating victims, either with a community-based approach or one that provides cash to victims, which could prove difficult given poor record-keeping and the fact that many cholera victims didn’t make it to a hospital. The U.N. said it plans to meet with victims in Haiti before making a final decision on the package. Joseph, whose clients lost their case against the U.N. when a U.S. federal appeals court in August upheld the U.N.’s immunity from a damage claim, said he and the victims are waiting. “First, I salute Ban Ki-moon for asking pardon from the cholera victims,” he said. “They know that cholera blemished their recognition and this is what we’ve been waiting for, a public excuse. ...But now it is the package we are waiting on.”

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. While they welcomed his words, Joseph said, many feel that the $400 million is too little to address all that he outlined. “They don’t think they will be able to do the sanitation work and compensate the victims,” he said.

The U.N. acknowledges that the compensation component “will inevitably be an imperfect exercise, fraught with practical and moral hazards. ... The package is not likely to fully satisfy all those who have been calling for such a step, nor will it happen overnight.” Philip Alston, the independent United Nations human rights adviser who has criticized the U.N.’s handling of cholera, said Ban’s apology doesn’t go far enough. “He apologizes that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place,” he said. “As a result, there remains a good chance that little or no money will be raised and that the grand new approach will remain a breakthrough on paper, but one that brings little to the victims and people of Haiti.”

During the U.N. meeting, representatives of more than 20 nations spoke, saying they were glad Ban had apologized for what India’s representative called “a regrettable episode.” But while many called on members to contribute financially, it remains unclear how much money will be raised. “I keenly recognize the financial pressures that you face — indeed, that we all face,” Ban said. “I understand the reaction of being overwhelmed by what seems to be a never-ending list of pressing humanitarian needs around the world.” But, he added, “This mission is realistic and doable,” he added. “Cholera is a treatable and preventable disease. It can be controlled and eliminated. What is standing in the way is adequate resources and means of delivery.”

Ban said that as he prepares to exit the U.N., he wanted to address the cholera crisis that “had cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti.” “It is a blemish on the reputation of UN peacekeeping and the organization worldwide,” he told member states. Haiti’s ambassador to the U.N., Denis Regis, called on members to support the plan, calling it “a more generous, more humane, more constructive new approach.”

 

12/1/2016

BY JACQUELINE CHARLES

jcharles@miamiherald.com

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The day before United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon was set to make the case that ridding Haiti of the scourge of cholera should be a humanitarian funding priority, human rights attorney Mario Joseph wondered whether the outgoing world leader would finally issue a long-sought public apology.

For six years, Ban had refused to either apologize or acknowledge the role of his blue-helmeted peacekeepers in introducing the deadly waterborne disease to Haiti during relief efforts after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 300,000.

“The U.N. secretary general has always hidden behind lies in order to avoid admitting that they were the ones responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti,” said Joseph, who heads the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a partner of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims.

On Thursday, Joseph finally got the acknowledgment he wanted. Ban, a South Korean diplomat wrapping up his decade-long run as U.N. chief, issued an apology. It’s an important step, many in the Haitian and diplomatic communities hope, to getting U.N. member countries to fund a $400 million plan to eradicate cholera from Haiti, and compensate its thousands of victims.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologize to the Haitian people,” Ban said in English after asking “the Haitian people’s pardon” in Creole. “We are profoundly sorry for our role.”

In the live broadcast from the U.N. headquarters in New York, during which he detailed the plan, Ban acknowledged that the powerful world body “simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti.”

More than 9,000 Haitians have died from cholera and almost 800,000 have been afflicted with it, Haiti’s health ministry has said, since the first case was reported on Oct. 21, 2010, in the Artibonite region after the arrival of Nepalese peacekeepers.

Getting Ban to this point wasn’t easy, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said Thursday, as he called on nations to voluntarily fund the plan.

“It wasn’t easy for him to do this,” Eliasson said. “We had a part of this tragedy.”

The detailed plans to eliminate cholera, outlined by Ban and in a U.N. report, call for intensifying rapid response teams, strengthening epidemiological surveillance, rapid detection and the reporting and treatments of cases by mobilizing adequate funding.

The effort also calls for combining cholera vaccinations with water and sanitation interventions, more focused geographical targeting and strengthened support for longer-term water and sanitation services.

A long-term objective also includes Haitians having access to adequate supplies of clean water and functioning sanitation. The investments will be made through a public-private consortium that includes the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

The approach, the United Nations stressed in its report, can only work with sufficient money to pay for it: “For the past six years, both the immediate response and longer-term efforts have been severely hampered by funding shortages which have made it impossible to fully treat or eliminate what is generally a treatable and preventable disease.”

The second track of the plan involves compensating victims, either with a community-based approach or one that provides cash to victims, which could prove difficult given poor record-keeping and the fact that many cholera victims didn’t make it to a hospital.

The U.N. said it plans to meet with victims in Haiti before making a final decision on the package.

Joseph, whose clients lost their case against the U.N. when a U.S. federal appeals court in August upheld the U.N.’s immunity from a damage claim, said he and the victims are waiting.

“First, I salute Ban Ki-moon for asking pardon from the cholera victims,” he said. “They know that cholera blemished their recognition and this is what we’ve been waiting for, a public excuse. ...But now it is the package we are waiting on.”

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. While they welcomed his words, Joseph said, many feel that the $400 million is too little to address all that he outlined.

“They don’t think they will be able to do the sanitation work and compensate the victims,” he said.

The U.N. acknowledges that the compensation component “will inevitably be an imperfect exercise, fraught with practical and moral hazards. ... The package is not likely to fully satisfy all those who have been calling for such a step, nor will it happen overnight.”

Philip Alston, the independent United Nations human rights adviser who has criticized the U.N.’s handling of cholera, said Ban’s apology doesn’t go far enough.

“He apologizes that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place,” he said. “As a result, there remains a good chance that little or no money will be raised and that the grand new approach will remain a breakthrough on paper, but one that brings little to the victims and people of Haiti.”

During the U.N. meeting, representatives of more than 20 nations spoke, saying they were glad Ban had apologized for what India’s representative called “a regrettable episode.”

But while many called on members to contribute financially, it remains unclear how much money will be raised.

“I keenly recognize the financial pressures that you face — indeed, that we all face,” Ban said. “I understand the reaction of being overwhelmed by what seems to be a never-ending list of pressing humanitarian needs around the world.”

But, he added, “This mission is realistic and doable,” he added. “Cholera is a treatable and preventable disease. It can be controlled and eliminated. What is standing in the way is adequate resources and means of delivery.”

Ban said that as he prepares to exit the U.N., he wanted to address the cholera crisis that “had cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti.”

“It is a blemish on the reputation of UN peacekeeping and the organization worldwide,” he told member states.

Haiti’s ambassador to the U.N., Denis Regis, called on members to support the plan, calling it “a more generous, more humane, more constructive new approach.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/articl...

By Ban ki-Moon

Last week, I addressed the U.N. General Assembly to outline a new approach to tackle cholera in Haiti — a disease that has afflicted nearly 800,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,000 Haitians over the last six years. This tragedy has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the U.N. and the people of Haiti. It is a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organization world-wide.

I began my speech to the General Assembly with a message to the Haitian people: The United Nations deeply regrets the loss of life and suffering caused by the cholera outbreak in Haiti. We apologize. The U.N. simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role. In 2014, I traveled to Haiti to meet affected families. It was one of the most difficult journeys I have made across a decade as secretary-general. I heard stories of families who suffered, breadwinners who were lost, daughters and sons who are gone forever.

The people of Haiti have faced enormous hardships and obstacles over the years. Endemic poverty. Political instability. And, of course, the devastating earthquake of 2010. The cholera epidemic that soon followed added a deeper layer of tragedy and suffering. There are no easy answers or perfect solutions to the challenges in Haiti. But that must not deter the members of the United Nations from fulfilling their collective and moral responsibility for action. The U.N.’s new approach to tackling cholera is founded on two tracks, with costs amounting to approximately $400 million over two years.

Track One consists of an intensified effort to respond to, and reduce, the incidence of cholera in Haiti. That means improving people’s access to care and treatment when sick, while also strengthening water, sanitation and health systems. This is the best long-term defense against cholera and other water-borne diseases. Work on Track One is well under way. For example, the number of cholera rapid response teams has increased from 32 in April to 88 today. When there are reports of new cases, these teams work to provide immediate care within 48 hours and prevent further transmission. Vaccinations against cholera are also being provided to people in vulnerable areas.

The mission to eliminate cholera in Haiti is realistic and doable. Cholera is a treatable and preventable disease. Thanks to concerted international and Haitian efforts, the overall incidence of the disease has been reduced by approximately 90 per cent since its peak in 2011. What is standing in the way is adequate resources and means of delivery.

Our new approach also includes a second track focusing specifically on those Haitians most directly affected by cholera, their families and communities. Track Two is a concrete expression of the regret of our Organization for the suffering so many Haitians have endured.

The approach would support communities and possibly individuals most severely affected by cholera and be based on priorities established through on-the-ground consultations. This assistance could take many forms, including projects to alleviate the impacts of cholera and others that, while not directly related to cholera, reflect community needs such as education grants, micro-finance or other initiatives. Whatever the eventual design of the package, a familiar obstacle once again stands in the way: adequate funding. Should resources not materialize, innovative financing solutions may need to be pursued. My message to the General Assembly was clear: Without political will and financial support from the membership of the United Nations , we have only good intentions and words. Words are powerful — but they cannot replace action and material support.

So many people have suffered grievously. The United Nations and its members have the power to recognize and respond to that suffering. It is time for the international community to step up in solidarity, fulfill our moral duty and do the right thing for the Haitian people and the United Nations.

 

UN News

12/7/2016

A senior United Nations official has stressed that that recent successes in the fight against cholera in Haiti demonstrate that when the UN and Haitian authorities receive the necessary funds, real progress can be made, and that eventually, "cholera will go." In an interview with the UN News Service, Dr. David Nabarro, a UN Special Advisor, highlighted the recent massive recent vaccination campaign, backed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/ UN World Health Organization (WHO), that reached 729,000 vulnerable Haitians and the increase in 'rapid response' teams, which has had a positive impact in stopping outbreaks of the disease in its tracks. “I want enough cash in the bank so that we can be sure of being able to have this response capacity right through into 2018. Then, we can really get this outbreak right down, numbers really small, and then if we combine it [efforts to improve] water supplies and sanitation for every Haitian, cholera will go,” he underscored.

Dr. Nabarro noted that in August of this year, it became clear that the number of people with cholera in Haiti was actually larger than it had been last year. Because of shortages of funding, the number of teams that could respond rapidly when individuals were reported to have cholera-type symptoms had really dropped from about 70 to around 30. “With a situation like that, where you can't respond quickly to a person who is sick, you get more people in the vicinity of the sick person also being ill with diarrhoeal disease and probably with cholera,” he said.

The UN borrowed resources internally to increase the number of rapid response teams. As a result, the number increased from 32 in April to 88 today and the majority of people, who were reported as being sick with watery diarrhoea and suspected cholera, can now get treated within 48 hours of their illness being reported. When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in early October, the UN became extremely concerned that there would be an upsurge in the number of people sick with cholera because the storm damaged sanitary facilities and sewage leaked into the places from which people obtained their drinking water. This prompted the urgent delivery to Haiti of 1 million doses of the cholera vaccine and the massive and efficiently executed vaccination campaign of vulnerable communities in the storm affected areas.

Although the vaccine is not a 100 per cent effective, it can have a dramatic impact on cholera if combined with other interventions, such as chlorination of water supplies and intensive education, he said, adding that the UN is looking to vaccinate everyone in the country, ideally with two doses. The number of people with cholera is below the levels recorded during this period last year and the year before. “The way that's done is through having finance,” he explained. “You can't run an effective cholera response without dependable cash.” “You can then provide the five different inputs necessary for controlling an outbreak: rapid response, effective treatment, vaccination, chlorination of water supplies, and really strong public education and involvement,” he concluded.

The Special Adviser's call for scaled-up funding comes just days after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologized to the people of Haiti, expressing deep regret for the loss of life and suffering caused by the country's cholera epidemic, and drawing on his report A new approach to cholera in Haiti, outlined the way forward including immediate steps to stem the outbreak and long-term support for those affected – while also highlighting the need for adequate funding of the proposal. Haiti has been dealing with a cholera outbreak since October 2010, some nine months after it suffered a devastating earthquake. The outbreak has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,000. Concerted national and international efforts, backed by the United Nations, have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the number of suspected cases. While the number of those affected remains high, and recent outbreaks – partly heightened by the impact of Hurricane Matthew – show the continued vulnerability of the population to the disease, UN officials have said the challenge is not insurmountable.

12/9/2016

The need for an integrated approach to cholera treatment, including mass vaccination, is key to eliminating transmission of the disease in Haiti, writes Dr. Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser for Partners In Health (PIH), in The New England Journal of Medicine this week. “Mass vaccination in Haiti would save lives, and modeling suggests that such an intervention, coupled with targeted, effective water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, could substantially control, if not eliminate, the disease within a few years of the program’s introduction, at an affordable cost,” wrote Dr. Ivers.

Dr. Ivers, representing the consensus opinion of a Special Consulting Group to Haiti’s Minister of Health and Population, commended the recent government-led campaign to vaccinate more than 700,000 people in the south of Haiti, and called for the inclusion of a nationwide two-dose oral cholera vaccination campaign as part of the National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti. “Eliminating cholera transmission in Haiti with a combined, integrated approach at the population level would be a major achievement for the government and people of Haiti,” Dr. Ivers continued. “It would also have broad implications for the control of cholera in other affected populations around the world. The time for ambitious action on cholera control and elimination in Haiti is now.”

The United Nations recently apologized for the role it played in the initial outbreak of the devastating cholera epidemic in Haiti. PIH has long been at the forefront of organizations calling on the United Nations to help solve this crisis. Read Dr. Ivers’s New England Journal of Medicine “Perspective” article here. Learn more about PIH’s campaign to eliminate cholera in Haiti here.

By Kim Ives

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who will step down at the end of this month, made his most explicit apology yet for the UN’s role and responsibility in Haiti’s cholera epidemic, the world’s worst. However, in his ballyhooed Dec. 1 address to the UN General Assembly, Ban stopped short of admitting that UN soldiers militarily occupying Haiti since 2004 introduced the deadly bacterial disease into the country in 2010. “On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: we apologize to the Haitian people,” Ban said in the nugget of his long speech in French, English, and Kreyòl. “We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role.”

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, whose scathing report last August put Ban on the hot seat, rightly dubbed it a “half-apology.” “He apologizes that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place,” Alston told the Guardian. The epidemic began in October 2010 when cholera-laced sewage from Nepalese UN soldiers’ outhouses leaked into the headwaters of Haiti’s most important river, the Artibonite. Within a year, it had spread throughout the country. To date, cholera has killed about 10,000 Haitians and sickened one million.

Ban’s 11th hour “half-apology” comes after a relentless campaign of legal suits, popular protests, letter writing, condemnation by celebrities, and a withering torrent of critical press reports, books, and films. The legal crusade began on Nov. 3, 2011 when lawyers with the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) filed a claim within the UN’s internal grievance system to obtain compensation for Haiti’s cholera victims, as well as a formal apology and the construction of modern water and sanitation systems. They were rebuffed in February 2013, a year and a half later, with a two page letter simply stating that the claims were “not receivable” because the UN enjoys legal immunity.

For the next three years, the IJDH, along with other legal teams, attempted to sue the UN in New York State courts, but in 2015 and 2016 decisions, both district and appeals courts upheld the UN’s legal immunity, as argued by U.S. government attorneys. (The UN never deigned to appear.) But as lawyer Brian Concannon, Jr., the IJDH’s executive director, noted: “Every time they had a victory in court supporting their supposed legal immunity, it turned into a public relations disaster due to the negative press coverage and its amplification by social media.”

As Special Rapporteur Alston remarked, the UN was employing a “stonewalling” strategy and “double standard” which “undermines both the UN’s overall credibility and the integrity of the Office of the Secretary-General.” It is true that the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) troops “did not do enough” to stop cholera’s spread from the central Artibonite Valley where it emerged. As a veteran cholera-fighting Cuban doctor told Haïti Liberté when the epidemic began in October 2010: “They are doing exactly the wrong thing” by admitting cholera patients into general hospitals and clinics and not sealing off the outbreak area.

Ban’s carefully worded apology, similar to his 2014 tour of Haiti with statements citing the UN’s “moral duty” to fight cholera, seek to repair the UN’s tattered credibility and Ban’s pock-marked legacy, while avoiding any true legal liability and obligations. “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,” said Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

To sweeten the deal, Ban promised (although he won’t be around) that the UN would try to raise “around $400 million over two years” to support efforts like a cholera vaccination campaign (which Haitian biologist/journalist Dady Chery condemns as “useless”) as well as “improvements in people’s access to care and treatment when sick, while also addressing the longer-term issues of water, sanitation, and health systems.” This latter step is the only way to stop the spread of cholera. The UN’s previous anti-cholera fund drives have been singularly unsuccessful, raising only 18% of a $2.1 billion “Cholera Elimination” plan proposed for 2013-2022. As Concannon told a Dec. 2 conference call, “as hard as we fought to get those promises made, we’re going to have to fight even harder to get those promises fulfilled.” “For six years, the UN has been saying it doesn’t have the money,” Concannon continued. “We’ve been saying that they’ve been spending between $800 million to $400 million a year for over 12 years for a ‘peacekeeping mission’ in a country which has not had a war in my lifetime… Since the cholera epidemic started, the MINUSTAH has spent over $4 billion, and we think that’s a powerful argument to make when the UN says it doesn’t have money for a cholera epidemic which they started, while they have plenty of money for a ‘grave threat against international peace’ which never existed.”

Indeed, it remains to be seen if the UN will use its new cholera-fighting promises to prolong the mandate of the highly unpopular MINUSTAH, which was originally proposed to deploy only six months in 2004. Its latest six-month extension expires in April 2016, before which the mission will undergo a “strategic assessment,” Ban said in August. In conjunction with his Dec. 1 address, Ban released a Nov. 25 report to the General Assembly entitled “A new approach to cholera in Haiti.” In it, he referred to a 2013 UN-commissioned medical panel’s report which stated that “the exact source of introduction of cholera into Haiti will never be known with scientific certainty,” however, “the preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais MINUSTAH facility were the most likely source.” This is the closest Ban ever came to an actual admission of guilt for an epidemic whose source “will never be known with scientific certainty.”

“We’re moving forward but we’re not finished,” said Jean-Charles August, a teacher from Petit-Goâve, who is one of the cholera victims represented by IJDH and its sister International Lawyers Bureau (BAI) in Haiti. “We want eradication and compensation.” “This is more of a beginning than an end in terms of our fight,” Concannon told the conference call of lawyers, activists, and journalists. In the weeks and months ahead, the IJDH, along with the Haitian government and others, will be in negotiations with the UN for exactly how “eradication and compensation” should come about. The current Haitian UN ambassador, Jean Wesley Cazeau, applauded Ban’s “radical change of attitude” and looked forward to concrete results.

As a Dec. 5 New York Daily News editorial summed up the situation: “Up next, and urgently: a practical reckoning to undo the damage done.” In short, only time will tell if Ban’s parting gesture reflects a genuine committment within the UN to compensate the Haitian people and eradicate cholera, or was simply a head-feint to continue the UN’s shameful record over the last 70 year, from Korea to Afghanistan to Haiti, of leaving death and destruction in countries it invades (at Washington’s behest) to supposedly help.

Kim Ives is the English language editor of the weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté.

The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Kim Ives, Global Research, 2016

UN News Service

12/12/2016

Sandra Honoré, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Haiti and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), inaugurated on 8 December a water capture and distribution project in the town of Merger, an hour outside of the Caribbean nation’s capital Port au Prince. Funded by MINUSTAH through the Quick Impact Projects (QIP), the $80,000 venture project will supply water through nearly 5,000 metres of underground pipes to 12 kiosks spread through the surrounding communities in Gressier commune. It will allow 60,000 people to access to clean water on a daily basis. The underwater pipes are less likely to be broken by storms or human acts, than pipes running above ground, and thus will prevent the contamination or theft of the water from this vital supply system. MINUSTAH’s QIPs are intended to support the Haitian authorities in improving public infrastructure and living conditions. This project has the crucial benefit of helping Haiti and the UN address the ongoing cholera problem in Haiti, which has claimed more than 9,000 lives since 2010. "This is a very important project for the community here in K-Gato in the commune of Gressier. It is an important project because it is one of the key elements to help prevent the transmission, not only of cholera, but also of a number of water-borne diseases,” said Ms. Honoré, adding that this will work directly in line with the Haitian Government’s Plan for the Elimination of Cholera for the period of 2013-2022.

Highlighting the urgent need for clean water in Haiti, she said: “The statistics that we have from the water and sewage authority of Haiti indicate that only 42 per cent of the Haitian population has access to safe water. So increasing access of the population in communities that are far removed from central urban centres like the communities in this area in the commune of Gressier will indeed work and contribute to the major task and the overall task of the Government of Haiti for the elimination of the transmission of cholera.” She went on to say that the project is one small element of the overall UN response in support of the efforts of the Government of Haiti to bring clean water to the population throughout the country and also in collaboration with the work that the entire UN system – including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – are doing in this respect.

Ms. Honoré added that the UN has five of these water management projects either ongoing or in the planning stages for other areas in Haiti which will reach some 100,000 beneficiaries. Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the UN General Assembly on his report, A new approach to cholera in Haiti, and outlined the way forward including immediate steps to stem the outbreak and long-term support for those affected – while also highlighting the need for adequate funding of the proposal.

Echoing the words of the Secretary-General, Ms. Honore said that “cholera and all water-borne diseases are diseases that are beatable. We can work effectively and efficiently against the propagation of cholera. But this can only be done if there is financial support.” She ended her remarks by urging UN Member States and donors to support the Secretary-General’s new approach “in order to assist the people of Haiti who deserve this support from us at this time.”

12/12/206

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MORE THAN six years after a brigade of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal introduced cholera in Haiti, triggering an epidemic that has killed at least 10,000 and sickened many more, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has finally uttered the word “sorry.” Mr. Ban’s tortuously worded apology, delivered recently in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, must be the beginning, not the end, of official contrition and accountability by the United ations in Haiti. The glacial rate at which the United Nations grasped its moral responsibility for having wreaked a public-health disaster in the Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished nation has tarnished the institution. Cowed by its lawyers, jealously guarding its prestige, the United Nations averted its gaze from the victims, ignored incontrovertible scientific evidence and trembled at its potential legal liability.

Only when it became clear that its credibility was in tatters, and its authority to insist that member states adhere to international norms was in jeopardy, did the United Nations finally come to terms publicly with its culpability in the cholera outbreak. “We simply didn’t do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti,” Mr. Ban said. “We are profoundly sorry about our role.” His statement, coming just a month before his term as the United Nations’ eighth secretary general expires, painstakingly avoided an overt admission of what is already known: that the outbreak began when Nepalese peacekeepers, failing to use basic protocols of sanitation at their base when they arrived in 2010, contaminated a nearby river that provided drinking water for Haitians. Cholera was rampant in Nepal at the time; it had been unknown in Haiti for decades.

What is critical now, as U.N. officials have acknowledged, is that the organization take concrete steps to make amends, namely by leading a public health blitzkrieg to eradicate the disease in Haiti and by making reparations, to victims’ families, their communities or both. Legal accountability is not the point; a federal appeals panel ruled this summer that the United Nations enjoys diplomatic immunity from the victims’ claims. But moral accountability demands a sustained effort to wipe out a disease that has caused so much suffering in that country.

It won’t be easy. U.N. officials say they have nearly raised the $200 million they sought to overhaul water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, and to treat cholera’s steady flow of fresh patients there. That’s a first step toward what is likely to be a long struggle for eradication. Unfortunately, they have made little progress in raising from member states what they hope will be an identical amount of money to provide payouts, scholarships and other benefits to the relatives and communities of the dead. Under Mr. Ban’s successor, former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres, who takes office Jan. 1, the United Nations has every incentive to press ahead both to heal Haiti to the extent possible and to restore its own moral standing.

12/16/2016

UN News Service

Recognizing the moral responsibility of the United Nations to the victims of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the General Assembly today welcomed the new UN approach to tackling the disease – formally launched earlier this month by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – and called on all 193 of the world body’s Members States to provide the two-track plan their full support. Adopting a consensus resolution, the Assembly called upon “all Member States, relevant UN bodies and other international governmental and non-governmental partners to provide their full support to [the new UN approach], in particular to intensify their efforts to respond to and eliminate cholera and to address the suffering of its victims, including by providing material assistance and support to communities and those Haitians most directly affected by cholera,”

Costing an estimated $400 million over the next two years, the approach, detailed in a report of the Secretary-General entitled A new approach to cholera in Haiti, will centre on two different elements, known as ‘Track One’ and ‘Track Two.’ ‘Track One’ 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. ‘Track Two’ of the approach is the development of a package of material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera, centred on the victims and their families and communities. It is expected that it will also involve affected individuals and communities in the development of the package.

The United Nations General Assembly today adopted, by acclamation, a resolution on the new approach to cholera in Haiti. Outlined by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the new approach intensifies the efforts to respond to and eliminate cholera, and to address the suffering of its victims. Haiti has been dealing with a cholera outbreak since October 2010, some nine months after it suffered a devastating earthquake. The outbreak has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,000. Concerted national and international efforts, backed by the United Nations, have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the number of suspected cases.

Briefing the Assembly on the new approach in early December, Mr. Ban apologized to the people of Haiti, expressing deep regret for the loss of life and suffering caused by the country’s cholera epidemic, and said: “The United Nations and its Member States have the power to recognize and respond to that suffering […] let us step up in solidarity to our moral duty and do the right thing for the Haitian people and our United Nations.”

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AP) - The men strip off their clothes, wrap themselves in rags and plug their nostrils with tobacco to hide the stench. They squeeze into a cramped outhouse with a reeking pit to scoop buckets of human excrement with their bare hands. It's just another night's work for this four-man team of "bayakou" — the Haitian waste cleaners who take to the streets at night doing a miserable, indispensable job that creates such social scorn that few admit they do it at all. "The hardest part is going into the pit. You have to get used to it," says crew boss Auguste Augustin as his shoeless team worked by candlelight, filling sacks with human waste to be loaded into a wheelbarrow and dumped before sunrise.

The pit latrine cleaners form the lowest ranks of a primitive sanitation system that is largely responsible for the fierce persistence of cholera in this country since it was introduced to the country's largest river in October 2010 by sewage from a base of U.N. peacekeepers. Haiti still relies mostly on crude methods of waste disposal that have crippled its ability to combat a water-borne illness that can cause diarrhea so severe that victims can die of dehydration in hours if they don't get treatment. It has sickened roughly 800,000 people and killed at least 9,500.

The U.N., which this month acknowledged not doing enough to help the country fight cholera while stopping short of an admission of responsibility for introducing it, has announced a new fundraising plan to battle the easily treatable disease. It seeks to raise $400 million from U.N. member states, with the first $200 million dedicated in large part to treating patients with care like oral rehydration fluids, while promoting improvements in hygiene by distributing supplies like chlorine and soap. Improving water, sanitation and health systems are also stated goals of this first phase.

But critics say the U.N. has failed to consistently focus on the long-term problem — how Haitians dispose of their waste and get their water. What's needed, critics say, are sustained investments in infrastructure that would prevent fecal matter from contaminating water supplies and continuing the cycle of disease. "The $200 million for cholera control is desperately needed to stop deaths from cholera, and must be followed by robust efforts to put in the clean water and sanitation that will fully eliminate the disease," said Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer with the nonprofit Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

There's hardly any sewage treatment in Haiti more than six years after the worst epidemic of cholera in recent history began here. In a country where flush toilets are used by less than 10 percent of the population, millions of poor Haitians defecate in fields and gullies, dispose of their waste in plastic bags they throw into vacant lots, or use pit latrines that get emptied by bayakou for a fee. The country's first wastewater treatment facility, opened in 2012 north of Port-au-Prince with international money, closed two years ago because authorities lack the money to operate it. Another plant with lagoons to break down waste in nearby Morne-a-Cabrit is operating below capacity. There are three smaller sites in the rest of country of over 10 million people, but they are semi-operational at best.

Paul Christian Namphy, a coordinator with Haiti's under-resourced Water and Sanitation Authority, estimates the Morne-a-Cabrit plant, which charges septic haulers a disposal fee of $2.50 per cubic meter, receives 10 percent of the human waste generated in Port-au-Prince's metropolitan area. The United Nations is now pressing member states to ramp up donations to fund the latest initiative to fight cholera in Haiti. "I want enough cash in the bank so that we can be sure of being able to have this response capacity right through into 2018. Then we can really get this outbreak right down, numbers really small," David Nabarro, a special adviser to the U.N.'s secretary-general, said in a statement. "And then if we combine it with water supplies and sanitation for every Haitian, cholera will go." Complicating matters is that the cholera bacteria, previously unknown in the country, has adapted to waterways and become endemic in the country. Once that has occurred, in general, "it's really difficult although not impossible to eradicate," said Afsar Ali, a University of Florida researcher.

A major challenge is figuring out how to engage Haiti's bayakou and change behaviors. Some of the nocturnal workers are hired by sanitation companies, but most are independent operators who empty into drainage canals in violation of the law, creating ideal conditions for the spread of cholera and other diseases. "The bayakou need some sort of carrot to do things the right way otherwise they'll continue to engage in bad practices," Namphy said. But simply finding bayakou is tricky because they worry about getting arrested for illegal waste disposal and many don't readily admit they do such a socially scorned job. Augustin has no shame talking about his labor. He's been doing it for decades and readily discussed it on a recent evening, saying he's proud his hard work feeds his family in a desperately poor country.

But the 48-year-old is weary of dreaming about pit latrines when he sleeps during the day. The dank holes are dangerous places, he says, because sharp objects are sometimes thrown down. He nearly died of tetanus a few years ago after getting cut by broken crockery in a customer's latrine. "I wouldn't say no to doing this work a different way," he says on a recent night cleaning a latrine, his white work rags spotted with excrement. Haitian officials, meanwhile, are not holding their breath for the $400 million "new approach" announced by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as his tenure draws to a close. Expectations were raised in 2012 when Ban announced a $2.27 billion, 10-year plan to eradicate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At the time, U.N. officials in Haiti said 70 percent of that plan would go toward developing water and sanitation infrastructure. But that initiative has been woefully underfunded. "If sustained investments had been made years ago I don't think we'd still be in this situation," said Dr. Louise Ivers, a senior policy adviser with Partners In Health, a Boston-based health care organization that has worked in Haiti since the 1980s.

AFP

Port-au-Prince: The cholera outbreak that hit Haiti after Hurricane Matthew slammed the island has been contained but persists due to lack of funding, according to the United Nations. An epidemic of the waterborne disease -- which spread after a massive earthquake shook the nation in 2010 -- saw a resurgence after Matthew devastated the country in early October. The number of recorded cholera cases more than doubled in Haiti between September and October. Almost half of the patients were in the two southern departments hardest hit by the hurricane -- areas that until now were not major focal points of the fight against cholera.

Suspected cases of the disease fell 25 percent -- from 2,400 to 1,800 -- between October to November, according to the latest report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Haiti. The UN says the situation has improved thanks to a three-fold increase in the deployment of emergency teams, the delivery of drinking water aid and a vaccination campaign. But funding is critical to support the humanitarian needs of the poorest country in the Americas, said Mourad Wahba, the deputy special representative for the UN's stabilization mission in Haiti.

No funds have been set aside yet beyond the first quarter of 2017, which OCHA said could lead to a heightened risk of hospital mortality if none are ultimately allocated. "The rainy season will return and inevitably there will be an increase in the number of cholera cases," said Wahba. "I'm optimistic, but it all depends on the funding." Cholera struck nearly 40,000 patients between January and November, killing 420 of them. On a global scale, Haiti's cholera epidemic is the most vicious in recent history.

The disease causes acute diarrhea and is transmitted through contaminated drinking water -- a major challenge in a country with poor sanitary conditions. According to numerous independent experts, cholera was introduced to Haiti by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent to the Caribbean country following the earthquake. Since October 2010, the epidemic has killed more than 9,400 Haitians and infected more than 800,000 people.

1/17/2017

UN News Service

A senior United Nations adviser called today for a new “consortium” of donors committed to improving Haiti's water supply and sanitation services to help finally eradicate cholera from the island, in support of the newly-elected President Jovenel Moïse. Dr. David Nabarro, the UN Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, will on Wednesday take this message to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he aims to secure support from donor countries, development banks and the private sector for Haiti's long-term recovery. “I want to see if it's possible to get that support in the form of a consortium, making certain that Haitians are in charge […] but ensuring there is backup,” he told UN News in an interview, adding that donors want to be sure that “we are going to stick with this and make certain that the strategy is pursued to the finish.” “I will be responsible for making certain that we do everything we possibly can on this,” said Dr. Nabarro.

Haiti has been dealing with a cholera outbreak since October 2010, some nine months after it suffered a devastating earthquake. The outbreak has affected an estimated 788,000 people and claimed the lives of more than 9,000. Concerted national and international efforts, backed by the United Nations, have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the number of suspected cases. The UN apologized to the people of Haiti last month for the loss of life and suffering caused, and the Special Adviser said he is “committed to a new and enhanced approach on cholera in Haiti.”

The new approach to tackling the disease centres on two different elements, known as 'Track One' and 'Track Two.' 'Track One' 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. 'Track Two' of the approach is the development of a package of material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera, centred on the victims and their families and communities. It is expected that it will also involve affected individuals and communities in the development of the package. Dr. Nabarro praised donations already made by France and Republic of Korea to the anti-cholera effort, which have pledged $636,000 and $1 million respectively to UN funds. Canada has also recently pledged $4.6 million.

Miami Herald

By Jacqueline Charles

The British doctor in charge of helping the United Nations raise millions of dollars to support Haiti’s anti-cholera efforts is taking his case to some of the world’s most deep-pocket power brokers. David Nabarro arrived at the World Economic Forum in in Davos, Switzerland, this week with a plan to introduce Haiti’s plight “into the minds and hearts of people of power and influence, and people who wish to do good in key places.” “It’s a golden opportunity to raise interest and support for the challenges Haiti faces in regard to cholera and sanitation,” said Nabarro, who on Wednesday will lead a high-level session on building a consortium to finance long-term water and sanitation needs in Haiti.

The United Nations announced the long-term project last month as part of a new approach to eliminating the water-borne disease in Haiti. The proposal is part of a $400 million package then-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon laid out after delivering a long sought after apology to the people of Haiti for the U.N.’s role in introducing the deadly disease in Haiti with the arrival of Nepalese peacekeepers nearly seven years ago. Since then, the disease has killed more than 9,400 Haitians and infected more than 802,000 people. “We really aren’t asking for the moon here,” Nabarro said. “We’re asking for a modest amount of money to try and control cholera. This is not a huge amount given the amount of suffering.”

So far, however, only a handful of countries have responded to the U.N.’s special appeal: Canada with $4.6 million, France with $636,000 and South Korea with $1 million. The push includes raising $40 million for Haiti’s more immediate cholera needs into next year. In Davos, Nabarro is hoping to win support for the more long-term, costly project of improved water and sanitation infrastructure in Haiti, which has the lowest rates of clean water access in the western hemisphere. “It’s a slow process and not every single avenue works,” said Nabarro, who rose to prominence raising billions of dollars to combat Ebola, and is now fighting cholera while also running for the top job at the World Health Organization. “But I am committed to working for cholera control and water and sanitation in Haiti —even though I am not raising money at the speed I was hoping we would get it.”

Without adequate funding, Nabarro fears that Haiti will regress to the point it reached last summer when a lack of funding and an abundance of rain caused cholera cases to spike by 30 percent. “We have loads of plans. We’ve got people — but we just can’t put our plan into practice without the funds,” he said. “We need to build a long-term consortium for sanitation and water, and the people of Haiti need the material assistance to help them cope with cholera and what it has done to their lives.”

 

SBS News

3/18/2017

An appeal for funding to help the victims of Haiti's 2010 cholera outbreak falls short of its target, with only Britain pledging $622,000 in aid. A new appeal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for funding to help Haiti's cholera victims has fallen short, with only Britain responding to the call, UN officials said Friday. With only two per cent of the needed $400 million raised, Guterres had written to all member-states last month to appeal for aid to Haiti, where more than 9,000 people died of cholera in a 2010 epidemic. Britain was the only country to come forward, pledging $622,000.

That amount will be added to earlier contributions to the UN fund from South Korea, France, Liechtenstein, India and Chile - totaling about $2 million. Canada and Japan have separately granted about $7 million to help Haiti. An Australian UN human rights expert has criticised his own agency for not accepting responsibility for a cholera outbreak in Haiti.

The United Nations is hoping to raise $400 million over two years to reduce the current cholera caseload of 30,000 to 10,000 by the end of 2018 and provide clean water and sanitation. Only 25 per cent of Haitians have access to toilets. In his letter, Guterres had asked member-states to come forward with pledges by March 6 and said that if not enough was raised, he would be looking for other solutions.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the search for funds to help Haiti continues. "We will continue our efforts to mobilize the funds necessary to this new approach to cholera in Haiti in order to diminish the incidence of cholera in the country and support Haitians most directly affected by the disease," Dujarric said. Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon was forced to apologize to the Haitian people after tests showed that cholera was introduced by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent to Haiti after a devastating 2010 earthquake. The United Nations insists it is not legally responsible for the damages and invokes diplomatic immunity from lawsuits linked to the cholera outbreak.

 

Miami Herald

BY JACQUELINE CHARLES

In a suburb a few miles south of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, Vilner Benjamin walks through a concrete maze of unpainted cinder block homes and narrow alleys pointing out the filthy, standing water and the canal that floods with disease-carrying waste whenever it rains. His cell phone rings nonstop as he makes his way through the neighborhood called Bergamoth, with caller after caller anxiously asking the same question: “Any news?”

The calls are from Haitian cholera victims who are desperate to know if they’ll receive any of the compensation promised by the United Nations after its blue-helmeted peacekeepers infected Haiti’s Artibonite River and one of its tributaries with the deadly disease in 2010. “They are thirsty for information,” says Benjamin, head of ASOVIK’K, the Association of Cholera Victims of Carrefour, which is compiling a list of cholera victims — about 2,700 and growing — in anticipation of U.N. payment.

A cholera victim holds up his Haitian national identification card as he discussed the psychological and physical scars of the waterborne disease. He is among scores of cholera victims who gather regularly in Haiti’s Cité Soleil slum to get updates on their plea for individual compensation from the United Nations.

A treatable but potentially fatal bacterial infection, cholera causes severe diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to dehydration and death in a matter of hours. Unknown in Haiti for at least a century, cholera has afflicted more than 812,000 Haitians, fatally infecting over 9,600 since it was introduced by Nepalese peacekeepers 10 months after the country’s Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

Francette Exantus, 44, is still feeling its debilitating effects — even walking a few steps is exhausting, she said — and has yet to see any compensation. “I am a multiple cholera victim,” said Exantus, a widowed mother of five who lives in Cité Soleil, a teeming seaside slum with tens of thousands of cholera victims. She said she lost her street-vending business after contracting the waterborne disease in 2010, and her father-in-law and husband died after they drank water contaminated with the cholera bacteria.

“My husband had no one to take care of him, only me, because everyone was afraid of the sickness,” Exantus said, following a protest by cholera victims last month on the final day of a visit to Haiti by the U.N. Security Council. “In Haiti, once someone is afraid of an illness, no one can save you. The only thing left is for you to die.” The United Nations, which after years of denial finally acknowledged its role in the outbreakin August, has pledged $400 million to treat cholera victims and improve sanitation and water infrastructure in Haiti, while also providing “material assistance and support” to those most severely affected. But it’s unclear how long Haitians will have to wait, and if compensation is offered, what it might involve.

A suggestion last month by U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed that $200 million of the money would be used to build “community projects” has been met with anger and angst in Haiti. Victims and their advocates view it as a betrayal of the promise made by former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who, after offering a long-sought after apology in December for the U.N.’s role, promised the victims would be consulted on any compensation decisions. Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for current U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, offered little clarity on the issue when he was asked about individual payments earlier this month at U.N. headquarters: “I think we will take one step at a time.”

Brian Concannon Jr., executive director of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), said that despite Ban’s promise, “the U.N. has not consulted a single cholera victim about the response, while it is making important decisions.” “Moving forward with only community projects without consulting Haitians will not be accepted in Haiti and will not effectively address the harms that have been suffered by victims,” he said.

Concannon’s advocacy group, which works with thousands of Haitian cholera victims through the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a Port-au-Prince based human rights legal firm, has pushed for individualized payments. A lawsuit it filed in the Southern District of New York in October 2013 on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims was dismissed two years ago by a U.S. judge. Another lawsuit, this one on behalf of 3,000 victims and their families, remains on the dockets of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. “As long as their responsibility to compensate is voluntary, the U.N. will continue to do what it has done, which is change the rules, cry poverty and claim they have no funds,” said James Haggerty, the lead attorney in the suit, who is asking for it to proceed as a personal injury case and as a class action on behalf of all Haitian cholera sufferers.

While the UN has had problems raising money for the trust fund with even the United States refusing to pay, Haggerty said “the notion that the United Nations is a poor organization shouldn’t factor into whether the people of Haiti get justice. “If this had happened on the streets of Manhattan, Paris or Brussels, the money would be found,” he said.

The suit doesn’t specify the amount of damages requested from the U.N. But victims in Haiti — citing lost wages and ongoing chronic illnesses — say they want $50,000 per surviving cholera victim and $100,000 per death. “This sickness leaves everyone it touches with problems,” said Christophe Aphaon, 57, who says he has ailments including vision problems, chronic pain and headaches. “I want to know what the United Nations is going to do with us, what is it going to do for us ... because we have suffered a lot.”

Aphaon was among hundreds of victims who greeted the security council delegation last month with protests. “I’m a victim. My mother is a victim. My child is a victim,” Litelaire Louis, 37, said standing on a sidewalk near the presidential palace, yards from where diplomats were lunching with Haitian business leaders.

Pointing to his 6-year-old son, he said, “I need to be able to do something for him, to say ‘Here is what you’ve received as compensation as a result of the illness you contracted at the hands of the U.N.’ ” Dr. Renaud Piarroux, a French infections disease specialist who has studied cholera in Haiti since its arrival and argues that it can be eradicated, said there hasn’t been enough research to determine if the disease causes chronic health issues. “This does not mean that patient complaints are unfounded. Simply put, no one has thought this problems was worth considering,” Piarroux said.

Just off the main road inside Haiti’s largest slum, where children play near overflowing canals and open sewage trenches, hundreds of cholera victims cram inside a school with dirt floors, concrete block walls and crumbling wooden benches. They meet here every Saturday, at 3 p.m., to lend support and to get updates about the U.N. Like a Baptist preacher leading a congregation in sermon, Berthony Clermont, the head of the Cité Soleil cholera victims group, asks the crowd, “What kind of damages do you want?” “Individual,” they yell in unison. “If the United Nations thinks it’s going to do collective damages, it’s going to be catastrophic,” he said in an interview. “The people will not agree. There will be disorder, chaos, even deaths. People will take to the streets.”

Clermont said the amount victims are asking for is not excessive. “In Haiti, you have a population that isn’t working, and these people certainly can’t work after cholera finished them off,” he said. “Giving them a public park, won’t benefit them. Build a hospital? The country already has hospitals. Build a school — will that benefit them? What they had financially when they contracted cholera is gone. Now what they need is liquid, individual payments.”

Benjamin, 54, who contracted cholera in 2013, said he has heard the UN wants to provide potable water and health centers, and funnel the money through the Haitian government. “If that’s the route they are going to take, then consider it a lost cause,” he said. Victims, he said, “don’t trust the government... When you consider the amount of aid Haiti received to reconstruct the country after the earthquake, the government didn’t do anything. The people are still living in the same misery they were before the earthquake.”

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