Friday October 19, 2018

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologizes to people of Haiti, 6 Years after UN Peacekeepers were blamed for Causing Cholera Epidemic on Island Nation

The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends the Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2016. The United Nations leader apologized three times to the people of Haiti, Dec. 1, 2016, in Creole, French and English for the cholera outbreak after the 2010 earthquake. VOA
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United Nations, December 2, 2016: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologised to the people of Haiti on Thursday, more than six years after U.N. peacekeepers were blamed for causing a deadly cholera epidemic on the island nation.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologise to the Haitian people,” Ban told an informal meeting of U.N. member states.

“We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” he added.

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The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English.

Ban’s apology, his most direct to date, fell short of admitting that U.N. peacekeepers brought the potentially fatal illness to Haiti.

“This has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti,” he said. “It is a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organisation worldwide.”

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Ban, who will leave office at the end of this month, said the U.N. has a moral responsibility to act and deliver for the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself.

“We now recognize that we had a role in this, but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all, is a step that would not be possible for us to take,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.

More than 9,000 died

It is widely accepted that Nepalese peacekeepers who were sent to assist Haiti in its recovery after the devastating 2010 earthquake, contaminated a branch of the Artibonite River with cholera.

The river is the country’s main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians. Subsequently more than 9,000 people died of the disease, which can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and some 800,000 were sickened.

Haiti’s U.N. Ambassador Denis Regis said the U.N.’s apology represents “a radical change of attitude.”

“The U.N. has shown it can admit making mistakes as well as draw the lessons for the future and address the harm and damage done, even when done involuntarily,” the envoy said.

Litigation

Some of the victims sought compensation, suing the United Nations in U.S. District court, but the court ruled that the international organization is protected by diplomatic immunity.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) has represented some of the victims. He welcomed the secretary-general’s apology.

“It appears to be a pretty strong and really historic step forward,” Concannon told VOA. But he is keeping the legal option open.

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“We did not file a lawsuit because we wanted to win a lawsuit,” he said. “We filed a lawsuit because we wanted the U.N. to apologize, and to install the water and sanitation necessary to stop cholera, and to compensate the victims. If the U.N. is going to do that without a lawsuit, it’s better for all concerned.”

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA
A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016.

Eradicating cholera

The United Nations released a 16-page report Thursday which details a two-track “new approach” to cholera in Haiti. It calls for $400 million in initial funding.

The first track involves intensifying the U.N.’s support to reducing and ultimately ending the transmission of the water-borne illness through improved access to health care and treatment. It also seeks to address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems in Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and did not have an adequate sanitation infrastructure at the time of the 2010 earthquake, which contributed to the rapid spread of the disease and difficulty in containing it. The government has said it wants to eradicate cholera by 2022.

The second track appears to still be under development, but would focus financial assistance packages to community-based projects to help those most affected by cholera.

Haiti has struggled with thousands of new suspected cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc on the nation on October 4. (VOA)

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Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent.

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Australia, Coal
The Liddell coal-fired power station is seen in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, Australia. VOA

Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.

The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.

Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.

Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.

Queensland, Australia
FILE – A dead tree stands near a water tank in a drought-stricken paddock located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.

“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”

Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.

Coal, Australia
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.

Also Read: Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)