UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has apologized for the first time to the people of Haiti for the international organization’s role in a deadly cholera outbreak that has killed more than 9,300 people and infected more than 800,000.
“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly we apologize to the Haitian people,” he said three times, in Haitian Creole, French and English, to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
“We simply did not do enough with regards to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. … We are profoundly sorry for our role,” Ban said.
According to numerous independent experts, cholera was introduced to Haiti by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent to the Caribbean country after the massive 2010 earthquake.
Cholera, a disease that is transmitted through contaminated drinking water and causes acute diarrhea, is a major challenge in a country with poor sanitary conditions.
The UN, however, reiterated its rejection of claims that it also is legally responsible for the damages from the health emergency.
“We do not change our basic legal position,” UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson told reporters on Thursday.
The UN chief also formally presented the 193-nation General Assembly with a “new approach,” a two-pronged program to help the families of the cholera victims and support the battle against the disease.
The UN hopes the new proposal will raise $400 million over two years, but funding for prior UN assistance to Haiti has been slow to arrive.
Aid to victims
Ban urged donors to finance the program and confirmed on Thursday that two programs were planned, each costing $200 million.
One will strengthen the fight against the epidemic, which resurfaced after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country in early October, and the other will improve the country’s sanitary infrastructure.
Some 72 percent of Haitians have no toilets at home and 42 percent still lack access to drinking water, the UN says.
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