U.N. apol­ogy to Haiti first step in repa­ra­tions

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

This is ex­cerpted from a Washington Post editorial.

More than six years af­ter a bri­gade of U.N. peace­keep­ers from Nepal in­tro­duced cholera in Haiti, trig­ger­ing an epi­demic that has killed at least 10,000 and sick­ened many more, U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Kimoon has fi­nally ut­tered the word “sorry.”

Ban’s tor­tu­ously worded apol­ogy, de­liv­ered re­cently in a speech to the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly, must be the be­gin­ning, not the end, of of­fi­cial con­tri­tion and ac­count­abil­ity by the United Nations in Haiti.

“We sim­ply didn’t do enough with re­gard to the cholera out­break and its spread in Haiti,” Ban said. “We are pro­foundly sorry about our role.”

His state­ment, com­ing just a month be­fore his term as the United Nations’ eighth sec­re­tary gen­eral ex­pires, painstak­ingly avoided an overt ad­mis­sion of what is al­ready known: that the out­break be­gan when Nepalese peace­keep­ers, fail­ing to use ba­sic pro­to­cols of san­i­ta­tion at their base when they ar­rived in 2010, con­tam­i­nated a nearby river that pro­vided drink­ing water for Haitians. Cholera was ram­pant in Nepal at the time; it had been un­known in Haiti for decades.

What is crit­i­cal now, as U.N. of­fi­cials have ac­knowl­edged, is that the or­ga­ni­za­tion take con­crete steps to make amends, namely by lead­ing a pub­lic health blitzkrieg to erad­i­cate the disease in Haiti and by mak­ing repa­ra­tions, to vic­tims’ fam­i­lies, their com­mu­ni­ties or both.

It won’t be easy. U.N. of­fi­cials say they have nearly raised the $200 mil­lion they sought to over­haul water and san­i­ta­tion in­fra­struc­ture in Haiti, and to treat cholera’s steady flow of fresh pa­tients there. That’s a first step to­ward what is likely to be a long strug­gle for erad­i­ca­tion.

Un­der Ban’s suc­ces­sor, for­mer Por­tuguese prime min­is­ter Antonio Guter­res, who takes of­fice Jan. 1, the United Nations has every in­cen­tive to press ahead both to heal Haiti to the ex­tent pos­si­ble and to re­store its own moral stand­ing.

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