Editorials, Opinion Piece Address U.N. Secretary General’s Response To U.S. Lawmakers’ Letter About Haiti Cholera Epidemic

Last week, U.N. Secretery-General Ban Ki-moon responded to a letter from 19 members of Congress — in which they urged the U.N. to pay compensation for a cholera outbreak in Haiti — outlining measures the body has taken and supported in the country so far. The following is a summary of two editorials and an opinion piece addressing Ban’s response.

  • Economist, “America’s View” blog: “Ban Ki-moon, the U.N.’s secretary general, reiterated that the U.N.’s legal office has decided the claims are ‘not receivable’ because of the U.N.’s privileges and immunities,” the blog notes. “Critics argue that the U.N.’s stance is tantamount to claiming impunity — that the U.N., an organization whose mission involves promoting the rule of law, is putting itself above it,” the blog continues, writing, “The U.N. has staunchly refused to entertain the cholera claims in any venue.” The blog concludes, “And although the U.N. launched an initiative to fight cholera in Haiti in January 2012, the program is already falling short: it has raised only $207 million in pledges for the year, $31 million less than it would require. It is another failure that by now will hardly surprise the people of Haiti” (7/15).
  • Tribune-Review: The editorial provides a brief overview of the epidemic and the U.N.’s response so far, noting, “Earlier this year, when the U.N. refused to pay compensation to 5,000 cholera victims and their families, members of Congress wrote to Mr. Ban, urging the U.N. to take the lead in funding the Hispaniola Initiative, which would provide an estimated $2.2 billion to Haiti over the next 10 years to improve access to clean water.” The editorial continues, “Ban’s response to Congress: tough noogies,” and writes, “Supposedly the U.N. has provided $140 million — how much of that is in U.S. funding? — to make the Haiti cholera problem go away.” The newspaper concludes, “For once, Congress should reciprocate by cutting off U.S. funding and sending Ban with his tin cup to collect from other nations” (7/14).
  • Peter Yeo, The Hill’s Congress Blog: “The cholera epidemic that has claimed so many lives in Haiti remains a public health crisis, and it demands action — from all of us,” Yeo, executive director of the Better World Campaign, writes. “In a letter spearheaded by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) earlier this summer, [19 members of Congress] urged a ‘nationwide response to the epidemic,'” and “[o]n Friday, Ban responded, outlining major steps that have already helped to decrease the rate of new infection by 90 percent since the outbreak began, and further steps that stand to build on this progress,” he states, noting that “in May, the U.N. pledged $29 million in new funds, bringing the current total pledge in support of the Hispaniola Initiative to $207.4 million.” However, he writes, “[t]he millions already pledged to Haiti are an earnest goal, yet they can only be raised from willing donors — like the United States.” He concludes, “The U.N.’s action clearly demonstrates that it stands by this commitment, and that it will continue its support in Haiti just as it assists countries the world over. Nevertheless, this assistance from the U.N. needs to be coupled with support from the public health community, Congress, and fellow member states to reach the end goal of a better future for all Haitians” (7/12).

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