Haiti: UN apologizes but does not take responsibility for cholera outbreak

Angry protesters in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, over the U.N.'s role in the introduction of Cholera in the country. PHOTO/Reuters

The out-going United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has apologized for the organization not doing enough to contain the spread of a cholera outbreak in Haiti, but he stopped short of apologizing for bringing the disease to the Caribbean nation.

Ban made his remarks in a speech announcing the United Nations’ new approach to cholera in Haiti – which seeks to provide assistance to communities affected by the disease that has afflicted some 800,000 Haitians and killed over 9,000.

“On behalf of the United Nations (UN), I want to say very clearly we apologize to the Haitian people. We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” Ban said, speaking first in Creole, then repeating himself in French and English.

Researchers say cholera was introduced to Haiti by Nepalese troops who were part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

For years the UN had denied or been silent on longstanding allegations that it was responsible for the outbreak, while responding to lawsuits by claiming diplomatic immunity.

In August, a US appeals court upheld the UNs’ immunity from a lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims who blame the UN for the epidemic.
After the ruling, Ban said he deeply regretted the suffering that cholera has caused and the UN had a “moral responsibility” to the victims.

Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said Ban’s apology did not go further because a panel that studied the outbreak attributed it to a number of factors.

“We now recognize that we had a role in this but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all is a step that would not be possible for us to take,” Eliasson told reporters before Ban’s speech.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press