The United Nations did not do enough to prevent the spread of cholera epidemic in Haiti that killed at least 10,000 people after the 2010 earthquake, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, in what critics saw as an overdue apology. The UN has long denied claims that Nepalese peacekeepers brought cholera to the island nine months after the devastating earthquake, the first known appearance of the disease there in over 150 years. Scientists, victims’ families and advocacy groups accused peacekeepers of spreading cholera through improper sanitation disposal at their base near a river. With a month left in his term, Ban issued the carefully worded apology as part of an announcement of a new plan to eradicate the disease.
“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologize to the Haitian people,” Ban told the UN General Assembly. “We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. As he spoke the apology in French, Creole and English, he acknowledged both the outbreak’s human toll and its damage to the UN’s standing in Haiti and beyond.
“This has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti. It is a blemish on the reputation of UN peacekeeping and the Organization worldwide.”
For many, though, the apology was too little, too late, focused on the UN’s response and stopping short of accepting full responsibility. And, it remains to be seen whether members states will pledge sufficient financial support in the form of what Ban called “voluntary contributions.” “For the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself, we have a moral responsibility to act. And we have a collective responsibility to deliver,” he said.