UN chief in Haiti launches sanitation program (Update)

by Pierre-Richard Luxama
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets residents during the launching of sanitation campaign in Hinche, Haiti, Monday, July 14, 2014. The Secretary-General arrived in rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease that many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country.

An outbreak of the disease that followed Haiti's devastating earthquake in 2010 has killed more than 8,500 people and sickened about 700,000. Studies have shown cholera-infected waste likely was inadvertently introduced in one of Haiti's biggest rivers by troops from Nepal, where the disease is endemic.

The outbreak is the subject of three lawsuits in U.S. courts, including one filed this year by nearly 1,500 Haitians seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban and the U.N., which cited diplomatic immunity.

At a church service in the village of Los Palmas, Ban said that he knew the cholera epidemic "caused much anger and fear" in Haiti and that the disease "continues to affect an unacceptable number of people."

"As secretary-general of the United Nations, I want to assure you that the United Nations and its partners are strongly committed to ending the epidemic as quickly as possible," he said.

In 2012, Ban announced a $2.2 billion initiative to help eradicate cholera in Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But the program has not attracted nearly enough foreign donors.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center wearing blue cap, greets residents during the launching of sanitation campaign in Hinche, Haiti, Monday, July 14, 2014. The Secretary-General arrived in rural Haiti on Monday to help launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera, a disease that many Haitians blame U.N. peacekeepers for introducing to the impoverished Caribbean country. ( AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Ban's visit was criticized by some in Haiti who said the U.N. must accept responsibility for introducing the disease and provide compensation to families.

"It is an insult to all Haitians for the secretary-general to come to Haiti for a photo-op when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the U.N. cholera epidemic," said Mario Joseph, a leading lawyer for Haitian cholera victims.

On Monday, Ban and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe launched an initiative dubbed "Total Sanitation" aimed at boosting sanitation and hygiene in rural areas. Most of Haiti's 10 million people have no access to bathrooms, giving the country the worst sanitation access in the Western Hemisphere and providing fertile ground for cholera.

Later in the capital, Ban met with President Michel Martelly and discussed Haiti's upcoming legislative and municipal elections, among other topics.

An accord setting Oct. 26 as election day has not been authorized by the Senate, where a group of Martelly opponents argue it is unconstitutional.

Ban said he was encouraged by Martelly's "strong commitment" to holding the long-delayed elections in October, but expressed some concern there was still disagreement between the executive and legislative branches.

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Security Council urges UN to combat Haiti cholera

Oct 10, 2013

The Security Council urged the United Nations on Thursday to keep up efforts to combat cholera in Haiti in a resolution extending the mandate of the peacekeeping force whose soldiers have been widely blamed for starting the ...

UN chief tells US it will combat cholera in Haiti

Jul 06, 2013

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told members of the U.S. Congress Friday that the United Nations is committed to helping Haiti overcome a cholera epidemic even though it is refusing to pay compensation to victims who blame ...

Recommended for you

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

13 hours ago

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

17 hours ago

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

Bacteria in caramel apples kills at least four in US

Dec 19, 2014

A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.

Steroid-based treatment may answer needs of pediatric EoE patients

Dec 19, 2014

A new formulation of oral budesonide suspension, a steroid-based treatment, is safe and effective in treating pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.