U.N. Wrong to Reject New Evidence It Caused Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic


Ban Ki-moon Should Apologize to Families & Reopen Investigation


Geneva, Oct. 24– The U.N. needs to reopen its 2011 investigation into Haiti’s cholera epidemic in light of new evidence from one of the investigating scientists that points to U.N. culpability for the outbreak, a catastrophe that has already killed 7,500 and sickened more than 300,000, said UN Watch, a non-governmental watchdog group based in Geneva.

However, speaking Monday at a U.N. briefing, Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, the world body’s head of peacekeeping, dismissed a top scientist’s conclusion that the epidemic originated in a U.N. camp of peacekeepers from Nepal.

Ladsous pointed to the 2011 report by a U.N. expert panel which, he said, “concluded that it was impossible to establish the origins of the disease.”

In response, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer highlighted the fact that the new evidence comes from a member of the U.N. panel itself, Dr. Daniele Lantagne, a leading international public health expert.

“Why is the U.N. hiding behind a report whose conclusions are now repudiated by one of its chief authors? It makes no sense. The U.N.’s response is deeply disappointing, and an abdication of basic accountability from an organization that regularly demands it of others.”

Instead, said Neuer, “the logical and moral thing for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to do is reopen the investigation, with a fully independent panel and public inquiry, and that is what we are demanding.”

“We recall that the UN Charter, whose anniversary the world celebrates today on UN Day, speaks of the organization’s commitment to solving health-related problems.”

Dr. Lantagne, according to a BBC report, changed her view about the source of the cholera epidemic following new genome data and other evidence.

No longer standing by the 2011 UN Report which she co-authored — and which stressed that the outbreak was “not the fault” of any “group or individual” — she now states that “the most likely source of the introduction of cholera into Haiti was someone infected with the Nepal strain of cholera and associated with the United Nations Mirabalais camp.”

The original report hinted at the same conclusion in recommending that U.N. staffers sent to future crisis situations “receive a prophylactic dose of appropriate antibiotics before departure or be screened.”

“No one is accusing the U.N. of deliberately poisoning Haiti’s water supply,” said Neuer. “But when one of its own designated experts concludes that a U.N. division negligently caused a mass epidemic, the victims are owed a better response than denial and deafening silence.”

“Given that we are now looking at one of the greatest violations of the right to health in the past decade,” said Neuer, “and given that the UN is the one responsible, we also call on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to speak out, as well as the UN’s expert on the right to health, Anand Grover.”

A UN spokesman in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, acknowledged the new information but refused to comment. “The investigation is still with the [UN’s New York] legal office, so I’m not able to say anything at this time until that’s gone through the due process.”

The consequences go beyond embarrassment, with compensation claims by Haitian victims now reaching into the billions.

Neuer urged the UN to apologize for its negligence, and “to give the victims of Haiti what they deserve: justice, dignity and full compensation.”

UN Watch