UNITED NATIONS, United States: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday (Friday in Manila) apologized for the first time to the people of Haiti for the role played by the world body’s peacekeepers in sparking a devastating cholera epidemic in the country.
“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly we apologize to the Haitian people,” he said three times — in Haitian Creole, French and English — to the UN General Assembly.
“We simply did not do enough with regards to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti,” Ban said. “We are profoundly sorry for our role,” the UN chief added.
According to numerous independent experts, cholera was introduced to Haiti by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent to the Caribbean country after the massive 2010 earthquake.
Cholera, a disease that is transmitted through contaminated drinking water and causes acute diarrhea, is a major challenge in a country with poor sanitary conditions.
The cholera epidemic has claimed more than 9,000 lives in Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Americas.
The United Nations reiterated its rejection of claims that it is also legally responsible for the damages from the health emergency.
“We do not change our basic legal position,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.
Several lawsuits filed by victims in US courts have been rejected because of the immunity from prosecution accorded to UN missions.
Ban formally presented the 193-nation General Assembly with a financial aid plan for the families of the cholera victims, which would also support the battle against the disease.
The UN hopes the new proposal will raise $400 million over two years, but funding for prior UN assistance to Haiti has been slow to arrive.