United Nations Blamed for Haiti's First Cholera Outbreak
(CN) - The United Nations contaminated Haiti's main water source in 2010, causing an outbreak of cholera that has killed thousands, a class claims in court.
The federal complaint filed in New York attributes the cholera epidemic in Haiti to the allegedly negligent, reckless and tortious conduct of the UN.
"Prior to defendants' introduction of the cholera bacterium to Haiti in October 2010, Haiti had no reported cases of cholera," the complaint states.
Named as defendants alongside the United Nations are Ban Ki-Moon and Edmund Mulet, the current and former secretaries general, respectively, and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah).
The class led by Delama Georges blames the UN for an outbreak that has killed 8,300 people and sickened 679,000 others in Haiti. Cholera cases have also allegedly spread to the Dominican Republic, the United States and Cuba.
The complaint states that the UN did not take steps to prevent an outbreak of disease despite its knowledge of Haiti's weak water and sanitation infrastructure that create a heightened possibility of waterborne disease.
Cholera allegedly hit Haiti when the UN sent the island nation personnel from Nepal, "a country in which cholera is endemic and where a surge in infections had just been reported."
The UN stationed these troops on the banks of the Meille Tributary that flows into the Artibonite River, Haiti's longest river and primary water source, the Haitians say.
Untreated human waste was allegedly disposed of by the UN in open-air pits outside the base where it flowed into the tributary.
The contamination exposed residents to raw sewage, according to the complaint.
Haitians say they have been harmed by the contamination, and have family members who have died or will die as a direct result of the cholera introduced to Haiti by the UN.
Cholera allegedly continues to sicken and kill both Haitians and Americans at the time the complaint was filed.
The Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development has projected that 120,000 will contract cholera in Haiti this year.
The UN waited 15 months to respond to the 5,000 complaints it received, during which time 1,386 people died and another 168,988 suffered from nonfatal injuries, according to the complaint.
Minustah and the UN have continued to deny responsibility for causing the cholera epidemic, according to the complaint.
The UN denied reports and investigations linking it to the outbreak, saying that it "does not present any conclusive scientific evidence linking the outbreak to the Minustah Peacekeepers or the Mirebalais camp."
Class members also claim the UN did not test their soldiers or vaccinate them to prevent the foreseeable transmission of the disease.
The class seeks more than $2.2 billion for the Haitian government to eradicate cholera
The class is represented by Beatrice Lindstrom with the Institute of Justice & Democracy in Haiti in Boston, Mass.