Haiti cholera victims threaten to drag UN to court for compensation

8,000 people have lost their lives because of the disease in the past two-and-a-half years

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Friday 10 May 2013

In one of the worst epidemics in recent history in which over 8,000 people have died, cholera victims in Haiti have given the United Nations (UN) 60 days to begin talks on compensation. Else, they will drag the world body to court.

As many as 8,000 people have lost their lives and 68,000 people have fallen ill because of the disease in the past two-and-a-half years. The world body is charged with bringing cholera under control through its peacekeeping force in Haiti. Cholera broke out in 2010 near a camp of UN soldiers. They were using river water which was being dumped with human waste. It housed soldiers from Nepal.

In the letter titled “Cholera Victim’s Response to UN letter”, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti has claimed, “Since January 2013, an additional 184 people have died and 18,162 have been sickened from cholera.” On May 8, the victims’ lawyer said, “They will file a suit in the national court on behalf of petitioners and other victims of cholera in Haiti if appropriate response is not received within 60 days of the date of this letter.” In these 60 days, the victims are expecting an agreement for compensation.” The victims include family members of the deceased and those who fell ill due to the epidemic.

Earlier, in November 2011, cholera victims had claimed compensation from the UN. But on February 21this year the UN claimed that it was immune to compensation claims as per Section 29 of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The UN secretary-general telephoned Haitian president Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision and to iterate the UN’s commitment to eliminate cholera from Haiti.

The UN’s refusal to address petitioners’ claims has two consequences. It implies that dumping raw sewage into rivers of vulnerable countries where it operates is a matter of policy for the UN. Second, it would carve out an exception to Section 29 that is so broad as to swallow the UN’s obligation to compensate, the institute claimed.


Population genetics of Vibrio cholerae from Nepal in 2010: Evidence on the origin of the Haitian outbreak

Cholera in Haiti: Reproductive numbers and vaccination coverage estimates

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