Rights Advocates Suing U.N. Over the Spread of Cholera in Haiti – NYTimes.com

Holding the UN accountible for humanitarian aid: winning strategy?

Haitian leaders, while dependent on the United Nations to help maintain stability and provide other important services, have also expressed unhappiness over the cholera issue. In an address last Thursday at the annual United Nations General Assembly opening session, Haiti’s prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, spoke of what he called the “moral responsibility” of the United Nations in the outbreak, and said the efforts to combat it had been far from sufficient.

Forensic studies, including one ordered by the United Nations, have identified the culprit bacteria as an Asian strain imported to Haiti by Nepalese members of the United Nations peacekeeping force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, which was first authorized in 2004 and maintains about 8,700 soldiers and police officers there, drawn from more than three dozen member states. The forensic studies have also linked the spread of the cholera to a flawed sanitation system at the Nepalese peacekeeper base, which contaminated a tributary that feeds Haiti’s largest river, used by Haitians for drinking and bathing.

via Rights Advocates Suing U.N. Over the Spread of Cholera in Haiti – NYTimes.com.


8 thoughts on “Rights Advocates Suing U.N. Over the Spread of Cholera in Haiti – NYTimes.com”

  1. Blaming the UN for a cholera outbreak is a desperate measure taken by Haiti; it is so sad that Haiti feels that their only option to get money is to sue an organization that is trying to help them. The UN’s presence might have influenced or began the spread of cholera, but the Haitians probably would have be a lot worse off if the UN hadn’t done anything at all to help!

  2. If it is not in question as to where the strain of Cholera came from (if it truly was from the peacekeepers) then I would concur that it is the responsibility of the UN to help them squelch the outbreak. Think on this–the United Nations was not welcomed to the country as tourists or traders, but because they were trusted to bring peace and help. Otherwise, they certainly would not have been allowed. This is a blow to their trustworthiness, and though it was unintentional, it falls under their purview to do something about it.

  3. I can’t say I blame Haiti for trying to hold the UN responsible. From their point of view, they were in a tough spot before cholera got there, even with the help from the UN. Now, because of the UN, they are in a worse spot than they were before. It is if they were saying, “Hey, you guys were supposed to help us, not make this worse!”. For a poor country that has been through the ringer, the cholera outbreak is like getting kicked while you are down. I applaud the Haitian government for their effort to hold the UN accountable, even if they aren’t likely to get anything out of the deal.

  4. Although the UN Peacekeepers certainly brought Cholera into Haiti by accident, they are nonetheless representatives of the UN which means the UN must be held accountable for anything that the peacekeepers cause or do. This accountability includes the UN being held accountable for the elimination of the cholera. Yes, the UN is trying to do good in Haiti but if they, like Madeline said, do not fix the cholera problem then Haiti will lose trust in the UN Peacekeepers and may be less willing to allow the peacekeepers to give aid in the future.

  5. I fully understanding wanting to place the blame somewhere for such an outbreak; cholera is a nasty disease, and it appears to have really affected Haiti and the Haitian people. However, I think suing the United Nations is a step too far. The United Nations exists to aid, and the Nepalese worker that is accused of bringing cholera was only trying to help. The United Nations is already committed to helping Haiti eliminate cholera, and I’m sure the United Nations is providing all sorts of other aid to Haiti anyway. What is Haiti going to gain from this lawsuit?!

  6. Let’s step back a moment. Yes, the U.N. is probably responsible for the outbreak of cholera. Yes, Nepalese peace keepers probably should have been more responsible (assuming that this was gross negligence, and not sanitary ignorance on the part of the Nepalese). But let’s remember the purpose of the UN intervention; to help rebuild Haiti after it was flattened. This has required BILLIONS of dollars of aid and a large task force of U.N. and N.G.O. personnel from places all over the world. Yet none of the people in this U.N. army are obligated to help; there is no law or direct self-interest that would justify the funding of such a large scale operation from a realist perspective. However, the U.N. is there because member states are willing to fund a humanitarian effort even if there is no direct benefit.

    That said, any operation of this size is going to have unintended consequences. That just comes with the territory. Suing the UN, if it were to go forward, would set a damaging precedent for future interventions by incentivizing desperate refugees to manufacture UN caused problems for monetary compensation. It could also jeopardize what funding Haiti still receives for reconstruction. Is it worth cutting the nose to spite the face?

    Imagine how Americans would have felt if after we air-dropped thousands of pounds of food into West Berlin, the Germans sued us because the cheese gave them food poisoning? The same should be true of the UN. Just because there aren’t as many Americans involved doesn’t change the principle. If Haitians want the Nepalese off their Island, they should demand the offending party to stop assisting, not go for a money grab.

  7. I think it’s a really terrible thing for the Haitian people that the people they believed were coming into their country to make their lives better actually caused a great deal of death. I have to wonder, though, if suing the UN is a reasonable response to the situation at hand. The UN never intentionally meant for a cholera outbreak to occur, and I feel like suing them would avail to nothing. The UN has already been spending billions of dollars to provide relief to Haiti. Depriving the UN of the money it uses to help Haiti, I fear, would do more harm than good for the people.

    In straightforward honesty, it is difficult for me, a middle-class American with a comfortable upbringing and living situation – who has never been faced with serious tragedy in her life – to be the judge in so devastating a case. I have never lost a loved one. I have never seen a disease run rampant through the streets, or felt the helplessness these people surely feel. If it were me, if it were my brother, my mother, or my child that I had to watch suffer before my eyes and die from causes foreign and unfamiliar to my people and my country, I would be infuriated. I would want someone to be held responsible.

    Death and disease, however, are not always something someone can be held responsible for. Bad things happen in this world – without intended cruelty or malice. Sometimes there isn’t always a clear perpetrator responsible for the suffering we face.

    In the end, I don’t believe the UN should be sued for the outbreak of cholera in Haiti. The UN is Haiti’s ally and friend. In seeking to perform a good service to the country, something tragic just happened to occur, completely unforeseen and unintended by the UN. I think the Haitian people would benefit a great deal more if they would keep looking to the UN for their continued support rather than pull from it the very finances that could be used in programs already designed to help bring the nation back on its feet

  8. Even though the United Nations is immune to lawsuits resulting from any damage they have caused, this lawsuit should serve as a wake up call to the organization. More than 8400 Haitians have died since the outbreak in 2010, and there seems to be no end in sight for the spreading of the disease. The UN has committed to help update Haiti’s sanitation systems, but fundraising efforts are moving along slowly. Meanwhile, more and more Haitians are dying. Even if the lawsuit is thrown out, it should awaken the UN to the urgency of the Haitian problem, a problem they started.

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