The UN must finally acknowledge its role in Haiti’s cholera epidemic
A scientific analysis has come close to concluding beyond all doubt what the United Nations has long strenuously and heartlessly denied, namely that UN peacekeepers were responsible for importing cholera to earthquake-torn Haiti.
The revelations must finally awaken the world body to its moral responsibility to aid families of the more than 8,000 Haitians killed by the man-made epidemic.
After the devastating 2010 quake killed more than 150,000 people and brought the island nation to its knees, the UN upped its presence to answer crying needs.
This was a humanitarian mission, one for which Haitians remain deeply grateful.
But it soon became clear that cholera, the terrible bacterial illness that annually kills 100,000 worldwide, had appeared in the country and was spreading rapidly.
Despite the fact that, for over a century, there had been no reported cases in Haiti, men, women and children were suddenly dying of dehydration and diarrhea, hallmarks of the infection.
The ailment soon spread to towns across the countryside.
It turned out that a group of UN peacekeepers came from Nepal, where cholera is common. Powerful anecdotal evidence tracked the outbreak back to their camp, from which sewage had leaked into a river.
As Haitian deaths mounted, so did the accusations. The UN hid behind a characteristic wall of diplomatic mumbo jumbo, insisting that its people were faultless — and that, in any case, they had legal immunity from prosecution.
UN brass, all the way up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, sent a supposedly independent panel to investigate; two years ago, the group concluded that a link between cholera and the peacekeepers could not be definitively established.
Those very same experts, no longer on the UN payroll, have now changed their tune.
Last week, citing new evidence, including microbiological samples, the scientists reported that “the preoponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the” UN facility “were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti.”
Haiti has suffered enough. The United Nations has stonewalled enough. It is past time for the world body to acknowledge its role in creating this disaster upon a disaster — and begin paying victims’ families the compensation they are due.