Thirteen members of Congress sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon regarding concerns that it has taken too long for the UN to apologize to victims and set up a process that allows families to seek remedies.
Barbara Lee (D-CA) led the charge and has been a strong advocate on global health issues and aid transparency. We applaud her work on this effort and hope that the UN will heed the call to take seriously the concerns of cholera victims and their families. It is long past time to address these concerns.
Full letter available here: 2016-11-member-unsg-haiticholerafinal
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
It has been six years since UN peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti, which was already reeling from the deadly and devastating January 2010 earthquake. As a direct result of their negligence, nearly 800,000 people have been infected with cholera and upwards of 9,500 people have died.
In 2014, we wrote you expressing grave concern over the UN’s response to the epidemic. Despite overwhelming evidence that cholera was introduced in Haiti when soldiers serving in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) contaminated the country’s largest river system with raw sewage, the UN took nearly six years to acknowledge their role in the outbreak.
While we commend the UN for committing additional resources to fighting the outbreak in Haiti over the last three years, we remain disappointed in the unwillingness of the organization to formally apologize to the victims and their families and to set up a fair and transparent process that allows for victims to seek remediation.
In light of Hurricane Matthew’s devastating toll in Haiti, we urge the UN to address this crisis with renewed urgency. This year, there have been 29, 000 cholera cases and 267 deaths reported, an uptick in cases from 2014 and 2015. In the month of October alone, cases of cholera surged beyond 3,500, creating a heightened public health emergency in this already challenging time. Given the impact of Hurricane Matthew on Haitian infrastructure, we need immediate action to prevent a dramatic increase in new cholera cases.
On October 25th, Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, presented a report to the UN General Assembly outlining the fundamental flaws in the UN’s response to the 2010 outbreak. We agree with Alston’s analysis that the UN’s “existing approach is morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.”
We were pleased that in August, the UN finally acknowledged that it must “do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.” We also commend your administration for recognizing the UN’s “moral responsibility” to the victims and for committing to providing victims and their families with “material assistance and support.” However, the words and actions to date fall far short.
As Members of Congress representing the United States, the leading contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping activities, we again call for the United Nations to issue a formal apology to the victims of the cholera outbreak and their families. While we applaud the UN’s efforts to secure more funding for cholera treatment and prevention in Haiti, these efforts do not absolve the UN of its obligation to receive legal claims from victims of the epidemic and provide remediation for the affected communities.  We recognize our own country’s leadership role at the UN and fully support the proposed new measures to address cholera in Haiti and will encourage our own mission to allocate UN resources for cholera as appropriate.