UN Rejects Civil Suit Over 2010 Haitian Cholera Outbreak

A spokesperson said the U.N.'s privileges and immunities protect it from liability associated with the 2010 outbreak that has claimed nearly 8,000 lives.
UN Photo/UNICEF/Marco Dormino

UN Photo/UNICEF/Marco Dormino


UNITED NATIONS (TRNS) – Families of thousands of Haitians killed in the country’s ongoing cholera epidemic have no basis for seeking compensation from the United Nations, a spokesperson said today.

Citing a section of the conventions outlining the U.N.’s privileges and immunities, a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that a November 2011 claim levied against the world body is “not receivable.”

Follow-up questions posed to spokesperson Martin Nesirky yielded few additional clues as to the legal basis for the U.N.’s assertion.

“I’m not in a position to provide you with any details,” Nesirky said. “It’s not the UN’s practice to discuss in public the details of, and response to, claims filed against the organization.”

Before arriving at its immunity conclusion, Nesirky said the U.N., “gave serious consideration to the matter and took the time necessary to properly review the various claims raised in all their aspects.”

Ten months after a massive earthquake ravaged Haiti in January 2010, a cholera outbreak began to spread from the Artibonite River, a source of drinking water for many residents. Aided by poor sanitation conditions, it was not long before the illness spread across the country, as well as across Haiti’s border into the Dominican Republic.

Although the U.N. and other groups have channeled money and manpower to the country in an effort to contain the disease, identifying a culprit for the outbreak has been a far more thorny matter.

Blame was quickly directed toward a contingent of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal who had been stationed upriver on the Artibonite, and in the ensuing months a heated debate raged over the validity of water samples presented by the U.N. as proof its personnel were not at fault.

An October 2012 report from the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population identified 7,565 deaths out of 595,264 reported cholera infections, a mortality rate of 1.27%.


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Luke Vargas
Luke Vargas is the United Nations bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service, leading international coverage from 15 countries since 2013. Luke previously covered U.S. elections in 2008 and 2012 for radio and television. Twitter: @TheCourier

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