News / Americas

Haiti Cholera Victims Demand UN Payment

Demonstrators dance around a fake coffin with the UN initials on it during a protest against the United Nations, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 19, 2011.
Demonstrators dance around a fake coffin with the UN initials on it during a protest against the United Nations, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, October 19, 2011.
Margaret Besheer

Lawyers representing more than 5,000 victims of Haiti’s cholera outbreak have presented the United Nations with a petition demanding millions of dollars in compensation and an apology.

The epidemic, which has been blamed on Nepalese peacekeepers, has killed more than 6,600 Haitians and sickened nearly half a million more since the outbreak in October of last year.

The U.S.-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (I.J.D.H.) in Haiti delivered the petition to U.N. headquarters last week and presented the U.N. mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, with a copy as well.

The group says both entities are liable for the outbreak because they failed to adequately screen and treat peacekeepers arriving from countries experiencing cholera epidemics. The petition also says untreated waste from a U.N. base was dumped into a tributary of the Artibonite River - Haiti’s longest and most important waterway - and that officials then failed to adequately respond to the subsequent epidemic.

I.J.D.H. attorney Brian Concannon shared details of the petition with reporters on Tuesday.

"They are asking for $50,000 for every person who has become sick and did not die, [and] $100,000 for every victim of the U.N.’s cholera that did die," he said. "In terms of action, it is asking for effective medical treatment for people who do get cholera, but more importantly building the infrastructure that you need, especially clean water and sewage, to stop the epidemic. And third, the victims are asking for acknowledgement and an apology from the United Nations."

I.J.D.H. says 5,000 petitions have been filed, but that it expects many more will be filed during the next six months.

'A confluence of circumstances'

Cholera had not been documented in Haiti for decades. It appeared several months after the January 2010 earthquake that left thousands of people homeless and living in makeshift camps. Newly arrived Nepalese peacekeepers were suspected of bringing the disease into the country because cholera is endemic in Nepal.

In December, U.N. officials said MINUSTAH and the Haitian government had conducted tests of water samples from the Nepalese base, and the waters adjacent to it, which all proved negative.

In January, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned a panel of independent experts to investigate the matter. Their report, issued in May, found that the cholera bacteria was "introduced into Haiti as a result of human activity." But the report also noted that this particular bacterial variant was not native to Haiti and "is very similar to, but not identical, to the South Asian strain" of cholera.

The panel concluded that the outbreak was caused by "a confluence of circumstances" and that it was not "the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual."

But petitioners say the opposite, arguing the outbreak is attributable to the "gross negligence, recklessness and deliberate indifference for the health and lives of Haiti’s citizens" by the U.N. and MINUSTAH.

U.N. Spokesman Martin Nesirky confirmed receipt of the petition but would not comment on it, only stating that the U.N.’s position is that of the experts’ report - a convergence of circumstances caused the outbreak.

"Our focus has to be on seeking to stop the spread and helping to treat those who have been hit with the cholera," said Nesirky.

I.J.D.H. representatives say they hope to meet with U.N. officials to discuss the petition. Lawyers for the group say they will pursue the matter in court in Haiti or New York if they cannot reach a settlement with the U.N.

They say immunity would not be upheld for the international organization in the case of introducing a disease into a country.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Cuba Reimposes Limits on Doctors' Departures From Country

Move is Havana's response to US program that it sees as bid to drain Cuba of doctors, nurses, other specialists working in third countries

Cash Squeeze Maims Venezuela's Pre-election Food Imports

Hit by recession and slump in oil prices, crunch hurts Pres. Maduro's bid to fill shelves with imported meat, dairy products and medicines before Dec. 6 vote

Argentina's Ex-President Menem Sentenced for Embezzlement

Menem is currently a senator representing La Rioja province where he was born, that status as a lawmaker protects him from being imprisoned

Colombia Declines Rebel Extradition to US Amid FARC Peace Talks

Move seen as a goodwill gesture as part of peace negotiations that are approaching a March deadline

Temple Passageway May Lead to Aztec Ruler's Tomb, Experts Say

Aztecs are thought to have cremated leaders' bodies but burial site hasn't been found, so discovery at Mexico City's Templo Mayor ruin could prove significant

US-Cuba Talks Underway; Focus on Migrants, Illegal Drugs

Officials from both countries are meeting in Washington as part of efforts to normalize bilateral relations which had been frozen for half a century