Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologized for the UN's role in the spread of cholera in Haiti. But Ban stopped short of asserting the UN bears responsibility for starting the outbreak.
Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon apologized Thursday for the UN's role in an outbreak of cholera in Haiti that has killed more than 9,000 Haitians since 2010 and afflicted some 800,000 people.
Cholera swept across the nation following a devastating 2010 earthquake.
This was the first time Ban has apologized for the role UN peacekeepers played in the outbreak. "We simply did not do enough with regards to the cholera outbreak. We are profoundly sorry for our role," Ban said during a speech announcing the UN's new approach to cholera in Haiti.
Denying full responsibility
Researchers have alleged that Nepalese troops involved in a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti introduced the disease there. The peacekeepers reportedly dumped sewage into the Artibonite River, the country's largest river and most important water source.
The UN has continuously denied responsibility for starting the outbreak. It has been subject to several lawsuits in United States courts over the matter. However, the UN has claimed diplomatic immunity, which a US appeals court upheld in August. The case centered on a lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims who blamed the UN for the outbreak.
Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said Ban's apology did not go further, as a panel had determined the cholera outbreak was due to other 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 said before Ban's speech.
Fundraising for Haiti
Speaking to the 193-member UN General Assembly in Creole and French (the official languages of Haiti), as well as English, Ban said the outbreak was "a blemish on the reputation of UN peacekeeping."
The UN hopes to raise $200 million (187.55 million euros) for families and communities worst-affected by the outbreak of the water-borne illness, as well as another $200 million for rapid response teams and to build water and sanitation systems in the country. Just one-fourth of Haitians have toilets and half have reliable access to clean drinking water.
UN special advisor David Nabarro has previously said that raising the funds would be difficult.
kbd/gsw (AP, AFP, Reuters)