UN Refuses to Compensate Cholera Victims in Haiti

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that the United Nations will not compensate families affected by the 2010 cholera outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives, despite evidence that the organization was responsible for the outbreak. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the UN cannot be held accountable due to an international agreement that grants the organization immunity in such cases.

The secretary-general phoned Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision, but also promised the U.N.’s continued support in the treatment of the disease in Haiti. In December, Ban announced that $2.2 billion in aid would be provided to Haiti over the next decade, though the sources of the funding were not fully identified.

“The secretary-general again expresses his profound sympathy for the terrible suffering caused by the cholera epidemic, and calls on all partners in Haiti and the international community to work together to ensure better health and a better future for the people of Haiti,” Nesirky said.

Multiple attempts to gain restitution for Haitians afflicted by cholera have largely fallen on deaf ears. American non-profit organization Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti filed a petition with the U.N. in November 2011, calling for a minimum of $100,000 for families that had suffered a death and $50,000 for each victim. The Haitian government has recorded more than 7,750 cholera deaths and almost 500,000 cases of the disease.

The institute says it believes the U.N. is denying the claim due to the precedent it may set. IJDH Director Brian Concannon criticized the U.N.’s failure to take responsibility, where it instead denied the petition with a one-sentence reply.

“Our case is about the U.N. dumping contaminated sewage in Haiti’s waters that has caused thousands of deaths,” Concannon said, according to the Associated Press. “Under this definition, any harm that the U.N. does to anybody would be a matter of policy.”

In the months after the 2010 earthquake, the U.N. deployed troops who are believed to have brought the bacterium from overseas. The U.N. has publicly stated that improper sanitation at one of its barracks may have been one of the sources that led to the outbreak, but refuses to take sole responsibility.

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