A Boston-based human rights group has filed claims against the United Nations over allegations that the international group is responsible for negligent introductions of cholera in Haiti.
The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH-BAI) said that over 5,000 Haitians have submitted claims to the UN and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, known as Minustah, for causing a cholera outbreak in the country.
Cholera struck Haiti in 2010 and sickened over 475,000 people and over 6,600 people died as a result of the outbreak. Prior to the 2010 outbreak, Haiti has not witnessed a case of cholera in over a century.
Victims argued that the U.N. is responsible for the outbreak as it failed to properly screen its peacekeeping battalions, one of which comes from Nepal where cholera is rampant.
Earlier in the year, the U.N. appointed an independent panel to investigate the cholera claims.
The panel released a report in May that detailed that the cholera bacteria indeed originated from outside the country and found that the outbreak matched strains from Nepal.
Minustah has a base near the Meye River and Nepalese peacekeepers were stationed at that particular base where it appears that waste and fecal matter were not properly disposed of.
The report said, “The sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais Minustah camp were not sufficient to prevent contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.”
The Artibonite River is cited as Haiti’s “longest and most important river” and is a widely used water source in the country by residents.
Nevertheless, the independent investigation panel concluded that the cholera outbreak was “caused by a confluence of circumstances…and was not the fault of, or deliberate action of a group or individual.”
Victims and family members of victims argued that the U.N. is liable for its multiple failures that constitute gross negligence, recklessness,, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians."
Victims are demanding individual compensation, a public apology, and that the UN adequately respond to the cholera crisis by providing clean water and infrastructure and medically treating current, as well as future victims.
Medical workers fear that the cholera is likely to become endemic in Haiti as the country suffers from sanitation concerns and lack of access to clean water.
BAI Managing Attorney Mario Joseph said, “This is an opportunity for the United Nations to demonstrate that its stated ideals of eliminating disease and encouraging respect for rights are not just empty promises.”