The United Nations failed “to hold itself accountable for causing Haiti’s cholera outbreak,” a Yale study has asserted.
The report, “Peacekeeping Without Accountability,” found that one of the largest cholera epidemics in modern history is “directly traceable” to a peacekeeping mission from Nepal. The United Nations introduced the disease into Haiti and has “refused to accept responsibility,” according to the recent study by the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Public Health.
In October, 2010, the UN Mission for the Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) brought a team from Nepal, where the disease is “endemic,” to an outpost near the island nation’s largest river, the Artibonite. The report claims that “haphazard” sanitation works at the outpost resulted in sewage that contaminated one of Haiti’s main sources of water. The evidence is “overwhelming,” connecting conditions at the Méyè base — some forty kilometers northeast of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince — to the cholera epidemic that in the first thirty days saw nearly 2,000 people die. Yale found that despite efforts since, by the United Nations to eliminate the disease, “new infections continue to mount.”
One of the key findings from Yale researchers was that the cholera outbreak in Haiti was “traceable to a single South Asian strain of the disease from Nepal” and that the area “initially affected” surrounded the Méyè base. The report also said no “compelling alternative hypothesis of the epidemic’s origins” has been offered.
The lengthy report also confronts the United Nations for refusing to establish a claims commission for cholera victims or to otherwise remedy the suffering of the victims. The organization “has breached its commitments to the Government of Haiti, its obligations under international law, and principles of humanitarian relief.”
Grievances filed in November, 2011, by Haitian and US human rights organizations on behalf of over 5,000 victims to the epidemic received no response from the United Nations until February, 2013. “Invoking” its Convention on Privileges and Immunities, the world body denied claims and “refused to address the merits of the complaint or the factual question of how the epidemic started,” the report said.
The MINUSTAH mission originated in 2004 with the fall of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Then, after Haiti’s devastating earthquake in January, 2010, the United Nations expanded the mission to include humanitarian recovery efforts. Last October, the fifteen-member UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission until at least October of this year to “help restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights.”