Haitian cholera victims threaten United Nations with lawsuit

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lawyers representing Haitian cholera victims warned the United Nations (UN) on May 7, if they do not admit liability for the spread of cholera in 2010, they'll be sued. Lawyers demand the UN apologize to and compensate the victims and improve sanitation efforts.

Lawyers claim the UN is breaking international law by failing to apologize or provide remuneration to the victims. They're seeking a minimum of USD$100,000 each for families of the deceased and $50,000 for each survivor. So far, over 8,000 people have died and thousands more have been infected with the disease.

UN peacekeepers, whom arrived in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, are being blamed for the spread of the disease which started near the troop's encampment. According to the lawsuit, waste from the UN camp was not properly sanitized, causing bacteria to enter the tributary of the Artibonite River, one of Haiti's largest. Prior to the arrival of troops, Haiti had not encountered problems related to the disease since the 1800s. The Haitian Institute for Justice and Democracy has referenced independent studies that suggest the Nepalese UN peacekeeping battalion unknowingly brought the disease to Haiti. Danielle Lantagne, a UN expert on the disease, stated the outbreak was likely caused by the peacekeepers.

Scientists from Pacific Bio-sciences of California Inc. analyzed the bacteria in Haiti and concluded its genome is an almost identical match to samples recovered in South Asia, but different to those found in Latin America.

The UN continues to deny any responsibility for the cholera outbreak and claims it is immune from further legal proceedings. Nearly 8,000 people have vowed to join the lawsuit.