It always seems like the Caribbean nation of Haiti just can’t catch a break. Throughout its history, Haiti has suffered from extreme poverty, corrupt governments, and not to mention catastrophic natural disasters, such as the 2011 earthquake which cost more than 200,000 Haitians their lives.

As if that were not enough, more devastation struck the island nation when a cholera outbreak occurred in October 2010. It has fueled a continuing epidemic, resulting in the deaths of over 8,300 people and the serious illness of 650,000 people, or one out of every 16 Haitians.

The United Nations (UN) is being blamed for causing the outbreak due to the unsanitary conditions at the UN peacekeeping bases. UN peacekeepers were sent to Haiti after their work in Nepal, where cholera is pervasive. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease was  most likely transmitted then to Haiti for the first time in 200 years.

Despite the negativity that seems to surround Haiti at all times, there may be a glimmer of hope. Human rights lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the UN seeking to sue the organization in the form of a compensation claim. The lawyers and Haitian families demand that the UN pays billions of dollars in damages to survivors and the families of those killed by the cholera epidemic.

The claims have been set by a Boston-based activist group of lawyers consisting of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haitian partner firm Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) located in Florida.

The UN has responded by claiming their legal immunity from compensation claims and has therefore rejected the lawsuit and claims made by Haitians affected by the epidemic. However, according to a recent article by The Guardian, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement saying that she stands “…by the call that victims of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently launched a $2.2 billion initiative to combat cholera in Haiti over the next 10 years. Additionally, on October 10, the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the MINUSTAH’s stay in the country one more year, with the peacekeepers formally leaving in October 2014 after 10 years of work in Haiti.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: MINUSTAH, UN News Centre, The Guardian: UN Sued Haiti Cholera Epidemic, The Guardian
Photo: The Wall Street Journal