UN chief wants $40.5 million for Haiti cholera victims
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is asking U.N. member states to transfer $40.5 million in unspent funds from Haiti’s peacekeeping mission to help communities and victims of a cholera outbreak that has afflicted over 800,000 people, according to a report released Tuesday.
Guterres said in the report to the Security Council that the money is desperately needed for a trust fund that the U.N. had hoped would raise $400 million to provide aid to the families of victims and afflicted communities, and to help eradicate the disease.
So far, the report said only $2.67 million has been contributed to the fund from Chile, France, India, Liechtenstein, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Britain. Canada and Japan have separately contributed $8.5 million to assist Haiti.
The Security Council voted unanimously last month to end the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti in mid-October after 13 years. The peacekeepers helped normalize a country in chaos after political upheaval in 2004, but U.N. troops from Nepal were widely blamed for introducing cholera to Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010. The death toll as of April was over 9,500.
For years the U.N. had denied or been silent on the longstanding allegations that it was responsible for the outbreak, while responding to lawsuits in U.S. courts by claiming diplomatic immunity. Last August, a U.S. appeals court upheld the United Nations’ immunity from a lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims who blame the U.N. for the epidemic.
After the ruling, then secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he deeply regretted the suffering that cholera has caused and the U.N. had a moral responsibility to the victims. He later apologized for the U.N. not doing enough to contain the spread of cholera and announced a new U.N. approach to eliminate the disease which sought to raise $400 million.
Guterres asked the 193 U.N. member states to consider voluntarily waiving the return of the $40.5 million balance and credits in the 2015-16 budget for the Haiti peacekeeping mission and put the money in the cholera trust fund.
In a renewed effort to raise voluntary contributions, Guterres said he has also written to every member state and has decided to appoint a high-level envoy “to develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy.” He said several countries have responded to his letter “and some additional voluntary contributions are anticipated.”