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Cholera spread through Haiti from United Nations base


UN says it needs to do 'much more' for Haiti cholera victims

Health experts say cholera, which had not been documented in Haiti in nearly 100 years prior to the outbreak, will continue to kill and infect Haitians as long as they lack access to clean water and sanitation.

For six years, United Nations officials refused to accept blame for bringing cholera to Haiti, but suspicions settled on a group of United Nations troops from Nepal who arrived after the January 2010 quake.

“The Secretary General deeply regrets the bad suffering the people of Haiti have endured as a result of the cholera epidemic”, Haq told reporters at United Nations headquarters.

The newspaper said the shift was prompted by an internal report, seen by the New York Times and penned by Philip Alson, a professor now serving as the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, that concluded the epidemic “would not have broken out but for the actions of the UN”.

Haiti was considered “cholera-free” before the beginning of the outbreak.

That lawyerly posture was heedless of the United Nations charter, whose preamble affirms its commitment to human rights, “better standards of life” and other goals at odds with a flat refusal to own up to the facts in Haiti. If left untreated, cholera can kill up to 50 percent of those infected. The peacekeepers on mission in Haiti were stationed near a river and discharged raw sewage. The strain of cholera that erupted in Haiti was very similar to a strain of the bacteria circulating at the time in Nepal. As of March, it was killing an average of 37 people a month.

In July 2012, Boston University Pulitzer Center student fellows Meghan Dhaliwal and Jason Hayes traveled to Haiti to document the outbreak-now an endemic problem-and the efforts of human rights lawyers to achieve justice for the victims. Haq said that previous efforts to fund efforts to improve Haiti’s sanitation and health care have been “seriously underfunded, and severe and persistent funding shortfalls remain”. Several experts have argued that the outbreak in Haiti started from the United Nations base.

The secretary-general noted there has been a 90 percent reduction in the number of cholera cases in Haiti since the peak of the outbreak in 2011 because of “sustained efforts by national authorities and the worldwide community”, the statement said. “You don’t get cholera unless you’re poor”.

The court’s decision came shortly after Farhan Haq, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, admitted the UN’s possible involvement in the introduction of cholera to Haiti. Victims’ advocates have sued the U.N.in US courts, but the United Nations has claimed diplomatic immunity.

Ban is “actively working to develop a package that would provide material assistance and support for those Haitians most directly affected by cholera”, a spokesman said, reading a statement from the UN’s top diplomat, who has four months left in his term.

A USA federal appeals court has upheld on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, the United Nations¿ immunity from a damage claim filed on behalf of 5,000 cholera victims who blame the U.N. for an epidemic of the deadly disease in Haiti.

Concannon says the U.N.’s position has been an “affront to [the] dignity” of Haitians: “This big organization that has been tasked by the world to promote human rights and accountability and the rule of law has been denying something that was so clearly undeniable”.

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