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  • Writer's pictureFrantz Alcema,

UN response to Haiti cholera epidemic lambasted by its own rights monitors

Updated: May 20, 2020

Thirteen UN rights monitors have unleashed blistering criticism of the United Nations for its “deeply disappointing” failure to make amends for having brought cholera to Haiti, causing the deaths of at least 10,000 people.

In a letter to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, the independent monitors excoriate the world body for making “illusory” promises to the Haitian people. They note that having pledged $400m for a cholera clean-up mission, the UN has raised just $21m and spent “a pitiful” $3m.

“This is a deeply disappointing showing following the loss of 10,000 lives,” the letter states.

Scientific evidence has conclusively shown that cholera was imported into the country by sick Nepalese UN peacekeepers who were relocated in 2010 to Haiti to help with a devastating earthquake.

The UN failed to screen the Nepalese force for the disease, which could have been done before they deployed from Nepal for less than $2,000.

For six years the UN denied any involvement in the transmission of the cholera bacterium. In 2016 it issued a fudged apology, but has continued to resist accepting any legal responsibility or to pay compensation.

Philip Alston, the UN monitor on extreme poverty and human rights who is lead signatory of the letter, told the Guardian that the UN’s failings were put into clear relief by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The world is rightly focused on the horrors of Covid-19 and losing thousands of people. But 10,000 people died in Haiti and there was no response,” he said.

Alston, who prepared a report to the UN general assembly on Haiti’s cholera disaster in 2016, added: “What upsets me most is that the UN has still not acknowledged its responsibility for taking cholera to Haiti.”

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