Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Cholera 9 Years On… A “New Approach”?

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The latest report from IJDH and BAI brings to light the challenges that cholera survivors still face, and provides background on: the United Nations’ legal obligations to cholera survivors, the decade-long movement for justice calling for the UN to fulfill the rights it claims to protect internationally, and the ongoing violation of victims’ right to effective remedy.

Introduction:

In October 2010, the United Nations (UN) introduced cholera to Haiti, sparking one of the world’s worst modern cholera epidemics. The epidemic resulted in more than 2,500 deaths within the first three months;[1] and to date has killed over 9,700 people and infected more than 819,000.[2]

For six years, the UN denied responsibility for the outbreak in the face of overwhelming evidence. Investigations consistently pointed to the UN base in Meye, that was staffed by a contingent deployed from Nepal – a country with an active cholera outbreak – whose sewage had contaminated Haiti’s main river way.[3] Following significant legal and advocacyefforts by the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) together with its Haiti-based partner the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), extraordinary mobilization by victims, and global public outcry, former UN Secretary-General BanKi-moon finally bowed to public pressure and apologized tothe Haitian people in 2016. The UN launched a US$400 million plan (the “New Approach to Cholera in Haiti”) to address what it termed its “moral responsibility” to the people of Haiti.

Three years after the UN’s apology, its response to cholera in Haiti remains deeply inadequate and continues to violate the rights of victims. The lack of progress towards a just response lays bare fundamental shortcomings in the New Approach plan: the UN failed to ground its response in an acceptance of legal responsibility or victims’ right to remedies, victims were not consulted in the plan’s design, no safeguards were put in place to ensure adequate funding or follow-through, and no mechanism was established to allow an independent assessment of victims’ claims. As a result, those directly affected by the epidemic are no closer to obtaining justice. Moreover, Haiti remains extremely vulnerable to cholera as the UN has failed to make systemic improvements to water and sanitation systems. As of 2017, 42% of Haitians still lacked adequate access to safe water.[4]

Since 2011, IJDH and BAI have worked alongside cholera victims to seek justice, accountability and remedies from the UN, in line with the organization’s5 own legal obligations. More than nine years after the beginning of the epidemic, victims remain mobilized and the work continues.

Read the full report here.

 


[1] Daniela Ceccarelli et al., Origin of Vibrio cholerae in Haiti, 11 The Lancet 262 (2011), available at https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(11)70078-0/fulltext.
[2] OCHA, Haiti Cholera Figures (Jan. 30, 2019), https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ocha-hti-cholera-figures-20190131_en.pdf; Francisco J. Luquero et al., Mortality Rates During Cholera Epidemic, Haiti, 2010-2011, 22 Emerging Infectious Diseases 410 (2016); see also Rick Gladstone, Cholera Deaths inHaiti Could Far Exceed Official Count, The New York Times (Mar. 18, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/19/world/americas/cholera-deaths-in-haiti-could-far-exceed-official-count.html.
[3] Renaud Piarroux et al., Understanding the cholera epidemic, Haiti, 17 Emerging Infectious Diseases 1161–68 (2011); Alejandro Cravioto et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel of Experts on the Cholera Outbreak in Haiti (2011), at 29; R.R. Frerichs et al., Nepalese origin of cholera epidemic in Haiti, 18 Clinical Microbiology & Infection E158, E162 (2012).
[4] Haiti and the United Nations Stand Together to Achieve Zero Transmis- sion of Cholera and to Improve Access to Water, Sanitation and Health- care, MINUJUSTH (Nov. 8 2017), https://minujusth.unmissions.org/en/haiti-and-united-nations-stand-together-achieve-zero-transmis- sion-cholera-and-improve-access-water.

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