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U.N. ‘Should Acknowledge Responsibility’ For Haiti Cholera Outbreak, Increase Response

Haiti’s cholera epidemic “is a calamity, … a man-made disaster, advocates for Haitian victims contend, asserting the epidemic is a direct result of the negligence of United Nations peacekeepers who failed to keep their contaminated sewage out of a river from which thousands of Haitians drink,” a New York Times editorial writes. The U.N. “has refused to accept blame, though the evidence of its peacekeepers’ recklessness is overwhelming,” the editorial states, highlighting a class-action “lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan last week by an advocacy group seek[ing] financial reparations from the United Nations on behalf of thousands of sickened Haitians.” The editorial continues, “The United Nations’ response — as it has been the last three years — was to claim immunity from litigation while expressing sympathy for the dead and infected, and promising to keep working to eradicate the epidemic.”

“The lawsuit’s chances of success are unclear, given the United Nations’ strong claims to diplomatic immunity, a principle embedded in its founding documents to enable the work it does across the globe. But even a body immune to legal claims cannot shed accountability,” the New York Times states. “There is no disputing that the United Nations has saved and improved lives in Haiti since the quake; its peacekeepers and humanitarian workers need to stay as the country struggles to recover. And the broad principle of its immunity is important,” the newspaper continues. “But the lives lost and blighted because of United Nations negligence are important, too,” the editorial writes, adding, “It should acknowledge responsibility, apologize to Haitians and give the victims the means to file claims against it for the harm they say has been done them. It can also redouble its faltering, underfinanced response to the epidemic, which threatens to kill and sicken thousands more in the coming decade” (10/12).