A group of victims of a cholera outbreak from 2010 in Haiti have sued the United Nations. The epidemic is thought to have been brought to Haiti by UN troops from Nepal.
Lawyers representing the cholera victims and relatives of people killed by the epidemic filed papers in a New York district court on Wednesday that sought damages from the UN for allegedly causing the outbreak.
Ira Kurzban, one of the lawyers for the victims, told a news conference that Haiti had been cholera-free for 150 years until UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal brought the disease back.
The cholera strain responsible for the outbreak in Haiti is the same as one traced to a river in Nepal next to a UN camp where Nepalese troops had been stationed.
Over 8,000 people have been killed in the three years since the epidemic began, and the petition filed in the New York court claimed at least 679,000 other people had become ill. The United Nations had been told in May a lawsuit would be filed if no compensation deal was reached within 60 days.
The UN claims it is immune from legal action over the cholera epidemic.
The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which is based in Boston, had previously sought to claim at least $100,000 (74,000 euros) for the families of victims who were killed by the disease and $50,000 for people who became sick. These figures would make the total compensation claim several hundred million dollars.
The cholera outbreak struck at a time when Haiti was already struggling to recover from the earthquake that struck in January 2010, killing over 250,000 people. The impoverished island nation is still facing challenges to rebuild after the earthquake and continues to fight the cholera epidemic.
mz/ph (AFP, Reuters)