A report by Jonathan M. Katz for The New York Times.
Just days after the United Nations acknowledged playing a role in a cholera outbreak in Haiti, and a day after it was ruled immune from related lawsuits by a United States court, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on the organization’s member states to provide the money and resources needed to end the epidemic and help Haiti recover.
Scientists have determined that United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal introduced cholera, a waterborne disease, to Haiti by allowing their infected feces to enter the country’s most important river system in October 2010.
At issue is whether the organization and its members will pay for the sanitation infrastructure and treatment necessary to end the epidemic, which has killed at least 10,000 people and damaged Haiti’s economy. The imported cholera strain has also spread to other countries in Latin America.
On Friday, the office of the secretary general’s spokesman said that efforts to build water and sanitation systems “have been seriously underfunded, and severe and persistent funding shortfalls remain.”
That echoes an internal report by a United Nations adviser, Philip G. Alston, obtained this week and first reported in The New York Times, which helped force the acknowledgment of the United Nations’ involvement in the outbreak.
“While the United Nations has been keen to emphasize how much it has done in Haiti, the reality is that member states have so far agreed to contribute only 18 percent of the $2.2 billion required to implement” a national cholera eradication plan scheduled to run through 2022, wrote Mr. Alston in his capacity as a special rapporteur.
Internal United Nations audits have also shown that poor sanitation practices continued after the outbreak in the organization’s Haiti mission and in at least six others in Africa and the Middle East for years.
Lawyers representing thousands of Haitian cholera victims petitioned the United Nations directly for relief in 2011, but they were rebuffed. Several lawsuits against the organization and Mr. Ban were then filed in United States federal court.
On Thursday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuitupheld a lower court’s ruling that the United Nations could not be sued in United States courts.
The lawyers are now considering whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Alston estimated that a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor could cost the United Nations $40 billion. That money would ultimately come from member states, including the United States, which pays about a quarter of the organization’s peacekeeping budget. Justice Department lawyers defended the United Nations in the case; the appeals court cited the Obama administration’s intervention as a significant factor in its decision.
According to the statement on Friday, Mr. Ban is “actively working to develop a package that would provide material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera.” Mr. Ban’s deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, declined to provide further details.