Cholera ‘Forever Destroyed’ U.N.’s Image in Haiti, Ban Ki-moon Says

Respect for the United Nations in Haiti was “forever destroyed” by the cholera epidemic that ravaged the impoverished nation after the 2010 earthquake, the chief of the worldwide group throughout that interval mentioned in a brand new e book.

Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean statesman who was the United Nations secretary common from 2007 to 2016, additionally asserted in his e book that the group ought to have executed way more to arrest the cholera scourge, which at the least three investigations linked to poor sanitation by U.N. peacekeepers there.

“Our delayed and insufficient early response had made the tragedy worse,” Mr. Ban wrote.

But he additionally expressed disdain for Haiti’s leaders — significantly its president on the time of the quake and cholera outbreak, René Préval, whom he described as misplaced, panicked and paralyzed.

And Mr. Ban was equally crucial of aggrieved cholera victims and their attorneys who unsuccessfully sued the United Nations for compensation in the American courtroom system. He described it as a fraudulent extortion try and mentioned it might have undercut U.N. work all over the place if it had prevailed.

James F. Haggerty, one of many attorneys who represented Haitians in that litigation, rejected Mr. Ban’s assertion in an emailed response to a request for remark.

“It is sickening that, after all this time, Mr. Ban still will not accept responsibility for the fact that the United Nations was the cause of the Haitian cholera epidemic,” Mr. Haggerty mentioned.

Mr. Ban by no means concedes in the e book that the United Nations was legally accountable for the epidemic, which sickened greater than 800,000 Haitians and killed at the least 10,000 in one of many deadliest cholera outbreaks of contemporary occasions.

Ban Ki-moon, the previous United Nations secretary common, heart proper, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010. Credit…Sophia Paris/Reuters

Cholera, a extremely contagious an infection from feces-contaminated water that causes extreme diarrhea and lethal dehydration if left untreated, has abated in Haiti over the previous few years. But the epidemic is broadly thought to be a stain on the legacy of the United Nations.

“This disaster forever destroyed the United Nations’ reputation in Haiti,” Mr. Ban wrote in the e book. “I am sickened that the country has not fully recovered.”

“Resolved: Uniting Nations in a Divided World,” Mr. Ban’s memoir, was revealed this month by Columbia University Press and devotes a chapter to Haiti and the U.N.’s work in that nation, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest. Freed from the constraints of workplace, Mr. Ban went additional than he had whereas secretary common in describing what, in his view, had been the issues he confronted with Haiti.

A victims’ compensation fund established by Mr. Ban close to the tip of his time period, financed by voluntary contributions from member states, had lower than $20 million as of Sunday, a sliver of the $400 million he had sought. Several diplomats advised Mr. Ban their governments “do not want to pay U.N. debts stemming from our own negligence,” Mr. Ban mentioned in the e book.

Recalling his personal traumatic go to to Haiti every week after the quake struck in January 2010, with huge components of Port-au-Prince, the capital, in ruins, together with the presidential palace, Mr. Ban dwelled on what he described as Mr. Préval’s seeming incapability to manage.

“He had not even sent a message of hope to the Haitian people, and I strongly urged him to do so,” Mr. Ban recalled. “But he seemed so shaken that he didn’t know what to do. In fact, he was terrified. He was panicked.”

Mr. Préval, whose presidency ended in 2011, died in 2017.

Mr. Ban acknowledged that the eight,500 United Nations peacekeepers who had been deployed in Haiti starting in 2004 to manage legal gangs “were not beloved by the Haitians, who often thought the peacekeepers stirred up violence instead of quelling it.”

The poor notion of the peacekeepers, he mentioned, worsened after the quake, when Haitians noticed how the peacekeepers weren’t aiding with rescues and repairs. In reality, Mr. Ban mentioned, the peacekeepers had been “assigned to patrol the increasingly dangerous tent camps for crime and assault, problems that grew as time wore on and many Haitians grew angrier and more frustrated.”

Against this backdrop, Mr. Ban mentioned, Haitians had been predisposed to imagine Nepalese contingent in the peacekeeping drive had introduced cholera into the nation when circumstances had been first reported in October 2010. Nearly six years later, after three investigations, Mr. Ban mentioned, there was “no doubt” that the Nepalese had allowed fecal waste to infect a river broadly used for consuming, bathing and washing.

Still, Mr. Ban mentioned, he had resisted strain to just accept obligation for the epidemic afflicting the Haitians. But he acknowledged “there was no denying the desperation of their situation,” so he ordered U.N. businesses to “commit all available medical and engineering resources to support sanitation construction in hard-hit areas.”

Near the shut of his time period in 2016, Mr. Ban got here as shut as he would to formally apologizing. “We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti,” he advised the General Assembly. “We are profoundly sorry for our role.”

Even so, Mr. Ban had uncharacteristically unkind phrases in the e book for the authorized actions introduced by Haitians in opposition to him and the United Nations in American courts looking for compensation for the cholera catastrophe. Those actions had been in the end dismissed due to immunity protections that cowl U.N. workers.

“I was incredulous — no, shocked,” Mr. Ban recalled upon having heard the information in 2011 that 500 Haitians had been looking for $40 billion in damages for negligence and wrongful dying. “I thought this lawsuit was fraudulent from the beginning,” he wrote, “and I was incensed every time I thought about this attempt to extort money from the United Nations.”

Mr. Ban recalled being “too relieved for words” when an appellate courtroom upheld U.N. immunity from such lawsuits in 2016.