Editorials, Opinion Pieces Discuss U.N.’s Acknowledgement Of Role In Haitian Cholera Outbreak

New York Times: Dodging Accountability at the United Nations
Editorial Board

“It shouldn’t have taken five years and a scathing report by an internal human rights watchdog for the United Nations to acknowledge that it bears responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti sparked by its peacekeepers deployed after the 2010 earthquake. … When a new secretary general takes over next year, she or he should make it a priority to revamp the organization’s oversight entities and create a culture of accountability. … [T]he next secretary general could set a new tone on accountability by strengthening whistle-blower protection policies and shielding the Office of Internal Oversight Services from the pressures it has traditionally faced … In the meantime, when [U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] unveils a new plan to curb the spread of cholera in Haiti, he should offer a formal apology, create a mechanism to compensate victims, and provide a detailed explanation of why it has taken the United Nations so long to confront inconvenient truths” (8/22).

Washington Post: The U.N. finally owns up to its role in Haiti’s cholera outbreak
Editorial Board

“…Spurred by the report from Philip Alston, a New York University law professor who is a human rights adviser to the [U.N.], the U.N. is finally acknowledging its complicity in Haiti’s cholera crisis. Breaking a steely silence, a spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the New York Times that the organization ‘needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.’ A new policy will be prepared after consultations with Haitian officials and other governments. … The reality, which the U.N. at last seems ready to accept, is that the organization must recognize its responsibility and renew its commitment to combat cholera in Haiti and strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure, which the organization has previously pledged to improve, to little effect. That may be difficult and costly; the alternative was untenable” (8/18).

The Conversation: As the U.N. finally admits role in Haiti cholera outbreak — here is how victims must be compensated
Rosa Freedman, professor at the University of Reading, and Nicolas Lemay-Hébert, senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham

“…This is the first time that the U.N. has acknowledged that it bears a duty towards the victims. It is a significant step forward in the quest for accountability and justice. … Experts, academics, ambassadors to the U.N., and former U.N. officials have long discussed what a political resolution to this situation might look like. We believe there are three crucial aspects to any resolution package. There must be financial compensation, efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, and a public apology. … Whatever form that package takes, it must be decided transparently. It must be victim-centered and ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done. … [T]here is some momentum brewing. It is crucial that is capitalized upon in a transparent, fair, and just manner” (8/18).

Washington Post: To make amends, the U.N. must provide funds to fight cholera in Haiti
Louise Ivers, senior health and policy adviser at Partners In Health

“…The U.N. can save lives, restore goodwill, and stabilize the country by financing a plan to control cholera in Haiti. The Haitian government, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, including Partners In Health, know how to eliminate cholera transmission in Haiti. Partners In Health supports an ambitious plan to interrupt and stop the spread of the disease using a combination of mass vaccination and household water treatment. If the U.N. follows words with financing, it will be taking very strong steps toward making amends to a country whose people it has harmed. We call on it to do just that” (8/26).

New York Times Magazine: The U.N.’s Cholera Admission and What Comes Next
Jonathan M. Katz, author and freelance journalist

“…The question is whether, absent a court or some other outside power, the United Nations and its members — particularly the United States — will choose on their own to spend the money and put in the effort to make things right again. So far they haven’t. The stonewalling has destroyed what was left of the United Nations’ reputation in Haiti, and has done the organization few favors in the rest of the world. Meanwhile, people in Haiti continue to die from cholera, infection rates continue to rise, and the damage to the country’s economy, social structures, and reputation goes unrepaired. … With Ban’s term winding down, and his mind on his legacy, does the subtle shift in his office’s language suggest a real reckoning is coming? Alston hopes so, for the sake not only of the Haitian people, but the whole of the United Nations as well. ‘A festering sore,’ he says in his report, ‘is much worse than a wound that is healed'” (8/19).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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