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UN at fault for cholera outbreak in Haiti

Rather than taking necessary safety measures to keep hundreds of thousands of people healthy, the United Nations has carelessly allowed them to become infected with a newly spread disease.

Human rights lawyers who filed a suit are correct in their aim to hold the UN responsible.

In the aftermath of the horrific earthquake that took place early 2010 in Haiti, cholera wildly spread among Haitians, infecting more than 650,000 people and killing more than 8,000, according to UN statistics.

After the massive earthquake shattered Haiti, the UN sent a peacekeeping force from Nepal. These members of the
peacekeeping force were infected with cholera before traveling to Haiti, and thus the lawyers claim these UN officials are the catalyst of the outbreak in Haiti.

The incident could have happened to any country and the UN should be held responsible for carelessly and recklessly sending foreigners into another country without taking proper cautionary measures to prevent such a lethal disease from spreading.

In response to the lawsuit, the UN failed to take any direct responsibility and held back in discussing any reactions they would take, though it did promise to help and provide medical assistance to those who have been affected.

It is disappointing to hear the UN’s lack of acknowledgement of their role in spreading this, especially when all evidence points straight to the UN.

According to Al-Jazeera, UN forces deployed from Nepal had stayed on a base near the Meille Tributary, which flows into Haiti’s longest river and primary water source, the Artibonite River.

Since cholera is mainly spread through contaminated water, it may also have been spread because soldiers were improperly dumping human waste, which had soon made its way into local communities, as stated in the lawsuit.

Many relief efforts and research groups are working towards preventing the spread of cholera in the future, focusing on improving sanitation with more pipelines in the sewage system and cleaner water.

Though this is a positive step and undoubtedly helpful to the Haitian cause, justice must be put in order and the UN must directly take responsibility.

The UN sent those Nepalese soldiers without proper vaccinations and cautionary checkups — this case alone is strong enough to sue them. Because the UN didn’t monitor the actions of the soldiers and their unsanitary disposal of waste, no one else can be blamed for the thousands of deaths that plagued the country.

The UN should admit its fault and a proper trial must be held to pinpoint the people who are responsible for the deaths. Haitian families should be compensated and continued medical assistance should be given to those in need until the disease is eliminated from the country.

Lama Alqasemi is a freshman majoring in mass communications.