Thousands of Haitians Are Dead; UN Admits It's Partly to Blame
A cholera outbreak has been ravaging the country since 2010
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2016 4:29 PM CDT
Children suffering cholera symptoms lie on cots in a Haitian hospital. For the first time, the UN has admitted it played some role in the outbreak that has killed thousands.   (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

(Newser) – After six years, the UN has admitted it is at least partially responsible for the cholera outbreak ravaging Haiti, the New York Times reports. The epidemic started in 2010 near a base where UN peacekeepers from Nepal had just arrived. Nepal was experiencing an outbreak of cholera at the time, and waste from the base in Haiti got into a nearby river. According to NPR, experts hired by the UN found the strain of cholera in Haiti matched the one in Nepal. And scientists agreed the base was the only realistic source of the outbreak. Regardless, the UN continued to deny any responsibility as cholera killed at least 10,000 Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands more. The Guardian puts those numbers even higher at 30,000 and 2 million respectively.

On Thursday, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for the first time said the UN played a role in the cholera outbreak and called for a "significant new set of UN actions to stop it." His spokesperson admitted some UN "involvement in the initial outbreak." This change in tack follows a confidential report from a UN adviser that stated the cholera epidemic "would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations." Still, the UN resisted taking full responsibility for the outbreak and continued to insist it can't be held legally responsible. Studies show it would have cost the UN as little as $2,000 to screen its peacekeepers for cholera and protect Haitians, who have no immunity to cholera and were already dealing with a devastating earthquake.