Haiti: UN head makes cholera ‘pilgrimage’

United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon made a two-day visit to Haiti on July 14 and July 15 to promote a $2.2 billion program that he launched in December 2012 to eliminate cholera from the country over the next 10 years. He traveled with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to the village of Las Palmas, near Hinche in the Central Plateau, to announce a "Total Sanitation Campaign," the second phase of the cholera elimination program, which remains underfunded. Ban called the visit a "necessary pilgrimage"; at a church service in Las Palmas he acknowledged "that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear" and that it "continues to affect an unacceptable number of people."

Many Haitians remained critical of Ban, who has refused to accept UN responsibility for the cholera outbreak, despite overwhelming evidence that it was caused by poor sanitation in October 2010 at a base used by troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph said it was "an insult to all Haitians for the secretary general to come to Haiti for a photo opportunity when he refuses to take responsibility for the thousands of Haitians killed and the hundreds of thousands sickened by the UN cholera epidemic." The Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP) said the visit would be a good occasion for Ban to say "when MINUSTAH will leave the country," to "recognize officially the UN's responsibility in the introduction of cholera in Haiti" and "to define a compensation plan for the victims." (AlterPresse, Haiti, July 14; The Guardian, UK, July 16, some from unidentified wire services)

Ban's visit came a month after a June 13 incident in New York in which a professional process server attempted to hand the secretary general a formal complaint in connection with a lawsuit filed in March at a Brooklyn federal court. Stan Alpert, one of the attorneys for the 1,500 plaintiffs in the suit, which seeks to make the UN accept responsibility for the epidemic, said Ban was given the complaint; the UN denies that he received it. (Miami Herald, June 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 20.