Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Advocates Decry UN Chief’s Lack of Urgency on Haiti Cholera 



Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (New York and Boston):, +617-652- 0876

Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (Port-au-Prince) :  +509-4875-3444

NEW YORK, BOSTON May 25, 2017—Advocates for victims of the UN-caused cholera epidemic in Haiti criticized a long-awaited report by Secretary-General António Guterres as a lackluster document symptomatic of a lackluster fundraising effort for the UN’s New Approach to Cholera in Haiti.  The $400 million plan, announced in December, has generated only 3% of the contributions needed. Secretary-General Guterres’ report, delivered on Tuesday, fails to even articulate a realistic plan for raising the balance of the funds.

“The report demonstrates that despite the UN’s promises, despite its cholera killing over 9,000 Haitians so far with hundreds more destined to die in 2017, responding to cholera is simply not one of the Secretary-General’s priorities,” said Brian Concannon Jr., Esq., Staff Attorney at the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), which sued the UN over the cholera outbreak. “Mr. Guterres’ report outlines no real fundraising plan, shows no urgency, and is devoid of recognition that the UN’s credibility is on the line here.”

The Secretary-General’s report persistently clings to the existing unsuccessful funding approach, by requesting the UN General Assembly to “consider inviting individual member states to provide further voluntary financial and other appropriate support for the new approach.” It also asks that countries redirect funds left over in MINUSTAH’s budget to cholera treatment.  If successful, this would bring funding for the New Approach to 10%—barely half of what the UN says is needed to provide life-saving treatment this year alone.

“The cholera response is a sincerity test for the Secretary-General’s proclaimed commitment to UN accountability, and so far he is not passing it,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), and Haiti’s lead advocate for cholera victims. “Mr. Guterres must show the vigorous, principled and personal leadership needed to keep the UN’s promises to Haiti.”

Cholera, which was introduced to Haiti through reckless sanitation at a peacekeeping base, continues to take a grave toll in Haiti. The UN estimates that 30,000 more Haitians will fall sick this year, and the country remains vulnerable to a resurgence in deaths, with few improvements to water, sanitation and health care since the height of the epidemic. For the thousands of families who lost loved ones and livelihoods, cholera imposes a crushing burden long after the disease itself has passed.

Every day of delay in the UN response kills, on average, another Haitian, and inflicts continued misery on the most impoverished Haitians. “What is important is that the UN moves fast because our situation is so bad. Lots of girls cannot go to school because we had to sell land and livestock and go into debt to pay for cholera [treatment],” said one victim in Haiti’s rural central plateau, one of the areas hardest hit by the epidemic.

In 2016, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon finally conceded to mounting pressure by victims, advocates and the UN’s own human rights experts that the UN accept responsibility for introducing cholera, put an end to the epidemic, and provide justice to the victims.  In December, the former chief issued a public apology and launched the New Approach.

“The UN knows the suffering we have gone through and are still living with. Was it a declaration that Ban Ki-moon made for himself, or was it [stating] a real responsibility of the UN?” asked a victim in Saut d’Eau, Haiti.

MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, has spent $4.3 billion in Haiti since the outbreak of cholera—ten times the amount promised to respond to the disease. The UN has announced a new mission for October, that will focus on promoting justice and the rule of law.



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