Leaked Re­port High­lights UN Reck­less­ness and Cover up on Haiti Cholera

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - - Source: In­sti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti.

Aleaked re­port shows that se­nior UN lead­er­ship cov­ered up ev­i­dence of se­ri­ous, un­cor­rected san­i­ta­tion fail­ures on its peace­keep­ing bases in Haiti, and con­tin­ued to deny re­spon­si­bil­ity for the cholera epi­demic it brought to Haiti long af­ter an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion doc­u­mented a sys­temic prac­tice of dis­charg­ing un­treated toi­let and kitchen waste di­rectly into Haiti’s en­vi­ron­ment.

“This new re­port makes clear that the reck­less san­i­ta­tion that caused the cholera out­break was part of a sys­temic san­i­ta­tion fail­ure,” said Brian Concannon, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Jus­tice & Democ­racy in Haiti (IJDH), which ad­vo­cates for reme­dies for vic­tims of the UN cholera, in­clud­ing through a U.S. law­suit. “And the san­i­ta­tion fail­ure is part of a sys­temic re­fusal of the UN to hold it­self or its staff ac­count­able to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s prin­ci­ples, the vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions that host peace­keep­ing mis­sions or the tax­pay­ers that fund them.”

The in­ter­nal re­view com­mis­sioned a month af­ter the Oc­to­ber 2010 cholera out­break found that over 10% of the bases for MINUSTAH, the UN peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Haiti, were dis­charg­ing un­treated toi­let waste “di­rectly into the en­vi­ron­ment,” while over 70% were dis­charg­ing “grey wa­ter” - ef­flu­ent from kitchens and show­ers, which can also con­tain disease. Nu­mer­ous sci­en­tific stud­ies have es­tab­lished that cholera was in­tro­duced by waste dis­charged from the Mire­bal­ais MINUSTAH base into Haiti’s largest river sys­tem. The epi­demic has of­fi­cially killed over 9,200 peo­ple and sick­ened 800,000, but a re­cent sci­en­tific study es­ti­mated that the ac­tual death toll could be 40,000 or more.

At the time of the cholera out­break, MINUSTAH was headed by Ed­mond Mulet. De­spite the re­view’s doc­u­men­ta­tion of sys­tem-wide sewage dump­ing, Mr. Mulet re­peat­edly de­nied any link be­tween peace­keep­ing troops and the cholera out­break, ac­cus­ing Haitians who pointed the finger at the UN of “wast­ing time and cost­ing lives.” As re­cently as 2014, Mr. Mulet told an in­ter­viewer that the peace­keep­ers did not bring cholera to Haiti, that “all those pre­cau­tions had been taken and had been taken all along” to pre­vent cholera, and that all the peace­keep­ers at the base had been tested for cholera. Even af­ter the leaked re­port be­came pub­lic, Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesman for Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ban Ki Moon, re­spond­ing to re­porters’ ques­tions on April 5, main­tained that “re­gard­ing wastew­a­ter man­age­ment, the [Mire­bal­ais] camp was com­pli­ant” in Novem­ber 2010. Tele­vi­sion footage from Oc­to­ber 27, 2010 shows peace­keep­ers “work­ing fu­ri­ously to con­tain what looks like a sewage spill” leak­ing from the base’s toi­lets to the nearby river. The UN’s own panel of in­de­pen­dent ex­perts sub­se­quently con­cluded that the peace­keep­ers were the most likely source of the cholera.

There is no ev­i­dence that any­one within the UN has faced any con­se­quences for the san­i­ta­tion fail­ures that caused the cholera crisis or the pub­lic mis­in­for­ma­tion that ex­ac­er­bated the crisis and tar­nished the UN’s rep­u­ta­tion in Haiti or abroad. The or­ga­ni­za­tion stead­fastly re­fuses any in­sti­tu­tional ac­count­abil­ity for the harm caused by the cholera. Although the or­ga­ni­za­tion claims to have made im­prove­ments in its san­i­ta­tion prac­tices, in­ter­nal re­views of other peace­keep­ing mis­sions, as re­cently as 2015, have doc­u­mented sim­i­lar sys­temic dis­charge of hu­man waste into the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ments there.

Mr. Mulet was pro­moted to the po­si­tion of Chef de Cab­i­net of UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki Moon, one of the most se­nior roles in the UN Sec­re­tariat, in Novem­ber 2015.

A UN sol­dier watches a man wash­ing in a Haitian refugee camp. Sewage dis­poal was so poor at UN mil­i­tary bases that it threat­ened to ‘dam­age the rep­u­ta­tion of the mis­sion’.

Pho­to­graph: An­dres Martinez Casares/EPA

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