UN admits role in Haiti cholera epidemic

haitiPORT AU PRINCE. — A United Nations acknowledgement that it played a role in introducing cholera to Haiti and vows to aid victims were welcomed Friday in the Caribbean nation, which has experienced the worst outbreak of the disease in recent history.

While the number of cholera cases has been significantly reduced from the initial outbreak in 2010, the fact that the preventable disease is still routinely sickening and killing Haitians is galling to many.

“The UN brought this sickness to Haiti so they need to pay the country back. A lot of people got sick, a lot have died,” said Michelle Raymond, who said her young son nearly died of the waterborne disease in 2013.

This week, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq acknowledged the United Nations’ “own involvement” in the introduction of cholera to impoverished Haiti and pledged that “a significantly new set of UN actions” will be presented in the next two months.

On Friday, Haq added that “the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the victims.” He said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is developing a package that would provide “material assistance” to cholera victims in Haiti, indicating for the first time that people affected will get financial help from the U.N.

For years the UN had denied or been silent on long-standing allegations that it was responsible for the outbreak, while answering lawsuits in US courts by claiming immunity under a 1946 convention.

Haq reiterated that the world body’s legal position on immunity has not changed.

In a decision issued late Thursday, the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld the United Nations’ immunity from a high-profile claim filed on behalf of 5 000 cholera victims who blame the UN for the epidemic. — AP.

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