Members of the United Nations Security Council and members of the UNited Nations Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) visit a cholera treatment center in Port au Prince, Haiti in 2012.
Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

BOSTON (IJDH) – As the United Nations Security Council prepares to travel to Haiti this week, human rights groups in Haiti and the United States are urging the delegation to address the worsening cholera crisis that has plagued Haiti since UN peacekeepers introduced the disease in 2010. Since then, cholera has sickened over 720,000 and killed 8,700 people in Haiti alone— more than the total number of people killed by Ebola worldwide over that span.

Members of the Security Council are traveling to Haiti on a three-day trip beginning January 23 to address the electoral crisis. Elections have not been held in Haiti for over three years, resulting in the majority of Parliamentary terms expiring on January 12, 2015 and leaving the legislature unable to pass laws. Meanwhile, no date has been set for elections, and human rights groups have urged the international community to support a constitutional electoral process.

“It is shameful for the Security Council to come to Haiti in support of democracy when it has never even acknowledged that UN wrongdoing has caused tremendous pain and suffering in our country,” said Mario Joseph, Managing Attorney of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Haiti, which has been working with cholera victims to seek justice from the UN since 2010.

Cholera was introduced to Haiti by UN peacekeepers stationed at a MINUSTAH base that regularly discharged raw sewage into Haiti’s largest river. The UN’s refusal to acknowledge its role in causing the epidemic and to respond justly has caused a credibility crisis for MINUSTAH.  The Security Council oversees MINUSTAH’s mandate and function, but beyond mentioning cholera as a humanitarian crisis in its report, the Council has not acknowledged UN responsibility or taken action in favor of a just response.

“The Security Council will lecture Haitians on respecting the rule of law while its own organization refuses to respect its legal obligations to victims of cholera. To Haitians, this is a hypocritical position and undermines the UN’s credibility here,” Joseph stated.

Cases of cholera have surged recently, yet cholera treatment centers around the country are increasingly shut down. “The epidemic is spiking, but UN efforts are receding,” said Joseph. While, the Council has spent over $2.5 billion in funding for MINUSTAH since the cholera outbreak, the UN’s plan to eliminate cholera continues to be underfunded at only 13%.

Brian Concannon, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, stressed, “Since the cholera epidemic broke out, MINUSTAH has spent $2.5 billion on a peacekeeping mission in a country with no war, while failing to fund the plan to control a real cholera epidemic. It is time for the Security Council to reassess its priorities in Haiti.”

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