The UN Made Them Sick

Policy Options, September/October 2013 | Go to article overview

The UN Made Them Sick

From Peacekeeping without Accountability: The United Nations' Responsibility for the Haitian Cholera Epidemic ( news/17237.htm) July 2013

In October 2010, only months after the country was devastated by a massive earthquake, Haiti was afflicted with another human tragedy: the outbreak of a cholera epidemic, now the largest in the world, which has killed over 8,000 people, sickened more than 600,000, and promises new infections for a decade or more. Tragically, the cholera outbreak - the first in modern Haitian history - was caused by United Nations peacekeeping troops who inadvertently carried the disease from Nepal to the Haitian town of Méyè.

In October 2010, the U.N. deployed peacekeeping troops from Nepal to join MINUSTAH in Haiti. The U.N. stationed these troops at an outpost near Méyè, approximately 40 kilometers northeast of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. The Méyè base was just a few meters from a tributary of the Artibonite River, the largest river in Haiti and one of the country's main sources of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, arrived in Haiti shortly after a major outbreak of the disease occurred in their home country. Sanitation infrastructure at their base in Méyè was haphazardly constructed, and as a result, sewage from the base contaminated the nearby tributary. Less than a month after the arrival of the U.N. troops from Nepal, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health reported the first cases of cholera just downstream from the MINUSTAH camp.

Cholera spread as Haitians drank contaminated water and ate contaminated food; the country's already weak and over-burdened sanitary system only exacerbated transmission of the disease among Haitians. In less than two weeks after the initial cases were reported, cholera had already spread throughout central Haiti. During the first 30 days of the epidemic, nearly 2,000 people died. By early November 2010, health officials recorded over 7,000 cases of infection. By July 2011, cholera was infecting one new person per minute, and the total number of Haitians infected with cholera surpassed the combined infected population of the rest of the world. The epidemic continued to ravage the country throughout 2012, worsened by Hurricane Sandy's heavy rains and flooding in October 2012. In the spring of 2013, with the coming of the rainy season, Haiti has once more seen a spike in new infections.

Haitian and international non-governmental organizations have called on the U.N. to accept responsibility for causing the outbreak, but to date the U.N. has refused to do so. In November 2011, Haitian and U.S. human rights organizations filed a complaint with the U.N. on behalf of over 5,000 victims of the epidemic, alleging that the U.N. was responsible for the outbreak and demanding reparations for victims. The U.N. did not respond for over a year, and in February 2013, invoking the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, summarily dismissed the victims' claims. Relying on its organizational immunity from suit, the U.N. refused to address the merits of the complaint or the factual question of how the epidemic started...

This report provides the first comprehensive analysis of not only the origins of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, but also the U.N.'s legal and humanitarian obligations in light of the outbreak and the steps the U.N. must take to remediate this ongoing humanitarian disaster. This analysis has concluded the following:

1) The cholera epidemic in Haiti is directly traceable to MINUSTAH peacekeepers and the inadequate waste infrastructure at their base in Méyè.

2) The U.N.'s refusal to establish a claims commission for the victims of the epidemic violates its contractual obligation to Haiti under international law.

3) By introducing cholera into Haiti and denying any form of remedy to victims of the epidemic, the U.N. has failed to uphold its duties under international human rights law. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The UN Made Them Sick


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.