Re-posted from BBC News Latin America and the Caribbean
By Mark Doyle, BBC International Development Correspondent
May 29, 2013
UN efforts to tackle cholera in Haiti are “almost non-existent”, a charity says, as the world body faces court action for inadvertently starting a cholera epidemic in the country.
Late last year, the UN launched a $2.2bn-appeal (£1.5bn) to improve water supplies in Haiti. But Medecins Sans Frontieres says this has had almost no practical effect. The UN is accused of negligently allowing peacekeeping soldiers to pollute Haiti’s water with cholera.
The epidemic, which is spread by infected sewage, has killed more than 8,000 people since late 2010. “There have been grand plans – a 10-year $2.2bn project,” Duncan McClean, a senior manager for MSF, told the BBC. But the UN plan had not been implemented, he added. “I travel regularly to Haiti; the impact on the ground today is almost non-existent.”
The UN plan to improve drinking water and sewage outlets – which MSF says is unfulfilled – was widely seen as the international body’s attempt to deflect calls by the victims of cholera for financial compensation. Responding to the MSF charge, the UN told the BBC that “enormous efforts” had been made to support Haiti’s cholera eradication plans. These efforts had resulted in significantly fewer cases and reduced mortality rates. But the UN also recognised that a shortage of funds meant “resources mobilised to date are clearly insufficient to face a potential peak of cases” in the forthcoming rainy season. It has called for more resources from member states to tackle the cholera epidemic.
The UN says it has legal immunity from the compensation case. Lawyers for the cholera victims say that unless talks on compensation begin in the next few weeks, they will take the UN to court in New York.
MSF said the cholera situation in Haiti was currently “extremely alarming”. The rainy season had begun – causing the usual flooding of infected open sewers – while donor countries had reduced aid commitments.