UN ad­mits role in Haiti's deadly cholera out­break

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

The UN has fi­nally ac­knowl­edged it played a role in an out­break of cholera in Haiti in 2010 that has since killed about 10,000 peo­ple in the coun­try.

Sci­en­tific stud­ies have shown that Nepalese UN troops were the source of the dis­ease - but the UN re­peat­edly de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity un­til now. An in­ter­nal re­port seen by the New York Times is said to have led to the shift.

But the UN still says it is pro­tected by diplo­matic im­mu­nity from claims for com­pen­sa­tion from vic­tims' fam­i­lies. On Thurs­day, Farhan Haq, a spokesman for UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, said that "over the past year the UN has be­come con­vinced it needs to do much more re­gard­ing its own in­volve­ment in the ini­tial out­break and the suf­fer­ing of those af­fected by cholera".

How­ever, Mr Haq re­it­er­ated that the UN's le­gal po­si­tion on diplo­matic im­mu­nity and pos­si­ble com­pen­sa­tion "has not changed".

His com­ments came af­ter the con­fi­den­tial in­ter­nal re­port stated that the epi­demic "would not have bro­ken out but for the ac­tions of the United Na­tions," ac­cord­ing to the New York Times news­pa­per.

It says the re­port was sent to Mr Ban last week by long-time UN ad­viser Philip Al­ston, a New York Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor who con­sults the world body on hu­man rights is­sues. The cholera out­break has been blamed on leak­ing sewage pipes at a UN base.

Cholera is spread through in­fected fae­ces. Once it en­ters the wa­ter sup­ply it is dif­fi­cult to stop - es­pe­cially in a coun­try like Haiti which has al­most no ef­fec­tive sewage dis­posal sys­tems.

No cases of the bac­te­rial in­fec­tion, which causes di­ar­rhoea, nau­sea, vom­it­ing and mus­cle cramps, had been recorded in Haiti for a cen­tury un­til the out­break in late 2010.

The US courts have re­jected claims for com­pen­sa­tion filed by vic­tims' fam­i­lies.

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