Haiti Cholera Epidemic Blamed On UN Peacekeepers

The Haiti cholera epidemic is being blamed on United Nations peacekeepers. A lawsuit filed in Manhattan's Federal District Court accuses UN workers of bringing the disease into the country.

Officials said Haiti was free of the disease for nearly 100 years. In 2010, the devastating disease reemerged. Within three years, more than 650,000 residents were sickened and 8,300 were dead.

Officials with the UN ordered forensic testing to identify the source. It was determined that several members of the UN peacekeeping force entered Haiti while infected with the disease.

As reported by New York Times, the lawsuit also claims the Nepalese UN peacekeeper base contributed to spreading the disease. A flawed sanitation system carried raw sewage into a tributary, which leads to Haiti's biggest river.

The river is a source of water for bathing, cooking, and drinking. Officials believe the river was contaminated by the sewage.

The Haiti cholera outbreak has slowed. However, it is still killing nearly 1,000 residents each year. Haiti's prime minister, Laurent Lamothe, said the UN has a "moral responsibility" to accept blame for the situation.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay admits the victims deserve compensation. However, she did not go into detail about when or how the victims would be provided relief.

As reported by Reuters, the Institute for Justice and Democracy petitioned the UN for compensation in 2011. The petition demanded $50,000 for each victim who fell ill, and $100,000 to families of those who lost their lives.

The petition was denied "pursuant to Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities." Section 29 outlines diplomatic immunity.

In 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon approved a $2.2 billion initiative to provide assistance in fighting further spread of the disease. However, Haitian officials believe the victims and their families deserve compensation.

It is unclear whether the lawsuit will be allowed by the court. In most cases, the United Nations is afforded diplomatic immunity from domestic lawsuits.

The UN admits some responsibility. However, they may be spared from compensating the Haiti cholera outbreak victims.

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