Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are still suffering after being infected with cholera following the United Nations arrival back in 2010, a fact the U.N. has actively denied in a country that had never before seen the disease. Now, human rights lawyers have filed suit against the U.N., demanding compensation for the Haitian victims.
Cholera, a disease primarily transmitted by drinking water or food contaminated with feces, produces an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, often leading to severe dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting and even death.
After arriving to assist with relief efforts following the 7.0 earthquake in Jan. 2010, U.N. peacekeepers reportedly infected over 669,000 Haitians with the disease, resulting in more than 8,200 deaths as of August 4.
Unsurprisingly, Haiti revealed that the U.N. fought any investigation from the beginning of the incident, denying any role in the matter and refusing to provide compensation to families and people effected. As a last resort, Haiti’s Institute for Justice and Democracy has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the U.N, demanding $100,000 to families who have lost a loved one and a minimum of $50,000 to those infected with the disease. Under Section 29 of the U.N. Convention on the Privileges and Immunities, the U.N. has declared itself immune from prosecution.
The suit alleges that the U.N. lied about testing their peacekeepers for cholera and the quality of septic tanks used by them. Haitian’s who originally noticed the damaged sewage pipe were told it was only transferring kitchen waste before being banned from the camp.
A 2011 study was able to examine the cholera bacterium, allowing researchers to trace the bacterium to a specific Nepalese bacteria cluster. Haitian officials believe drinking water was accidentally contaminated by infected Nepalese U.N. peacekeepers, whose sewage runoff flowed into the Artibonite River, a fresh water source used by thousands. In less than 3 months the disease spread throughout the entire country, now being detected as far away as Venezuela, Cuba, the United States and the Dominican Republic.
“In 2010, the U.N. didn’t want anyone to talk about this. They were directly castigating anyone who would bring up the topic,” AP Reporter Jonathan Katz told CNN.
Even after years of pressure from experts across the board, the U.N has continued to deny responsibility for the Nepalese peacekeepers.
“The Independent Panel concludes that the Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances … and was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual. The source of cholera in Haiti is no longer relevant to controlling the outbreak. What are needed at this time are measures to prevent the disease from becoming endemic,” the U.N. Report reads.
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Contributed by Mikael Thalen of Storyleak.