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EDITORIAL: UN fails to help cholera victims

marciadottin, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: UN fails to help cholera victims

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HOW MUCH longer will it take for the United Nations to come to grips with its moral, if not legal responsibility as well, to compensate the thousands of Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic in 2010 that has been traced to negligence by a detachment of United Nations peace-keeping troops in that Caribbean Community member state?
And why are both the Haitian government of Prime Minister Michel Martelly and the 15-member Caribbean Community in general seemingly unenthusiastic in vigorously championing the cause of the dead Haitian victims – numbering between 7 000 and 8 000 – as well as thousands of other infected survivors of this dreaded contagious disease?
These questions have resurfaced following the intervention this past weekend by a United Nations-appointed human rights expert in Haiti, Gustavo Gallon, in a report submitted to UN headquarters in New York.
The outbreak of the cholera epidemic had followed the unprecedented earthquake disaster of January 2010 that wreaked havoc, resulting in the loss of lives and homes and destruction of infrastructure.
The epidemic itself was traced to negligence on the part a detachment of Nepalese peace-keeping UN troops in Haiti via contamination of leaking sewage into the inland waterways system. Ironically, both Nepal and Haiti are categorised as being among the world’s 49 poorest nations.
While Mr Gallon’s call for the UN to begin the process of awarding compensation to those killed by the cholera epidemic, as well thousands of other infected victims, is commendable, he is not the first UN official to have done so, as recently noted in international media reports. A stirring call for compensation had initially come from then UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, during an awards ceremony in Geneva on October 8, 2010.
Within CARICOM, outside of editorials and news reports in various editions of the Nation newspapers focused on the cholera epidemic and post-earthquake reconstruction, there was specific intervention by the former long-serving Prime Minister of Jamaica, P. J. Patterson, who noted that “it is simply appalling, a most reprehensible behaviour for the UN to claim immunity” against compensation claims.
Mr Patterson, a lawyer by profession, who has frequently acted in the role of a CARICOM consultant on Haiti and worked with former President Bill Clinton’s special fundraising committee for post-earthquake reconstruction, has argued that the UN’s compensation failure was even more distressing “when scientific evidence substantiates that the cholera epidemic was introduced in Haiti at the time of peace-keeping soldiers from Nepal under United Nations command”.
Meanwhile, as the Haitian government of President Martelly seems to be missing in action in relation to evoking a positive response from the UN on compensation for the cholera victims, human rights lawyers in the United States are vigorously pursuing a lawsuit against the world body that requires compensation estimated at US$2.2 billion.