The U.N. Just Owned Up to Haiti's Cholera Epidemic

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The U.N. fesses up to their role in Haiti's cholera epidemic

The Short of It:

The United Nations has acknowledged that they had a hand in the devastating cholera outbreak that struck Haiti in 2010 and killed upwards of 10,000 people. It's the first time they have come clean since their initial accusal of involvement.

The Longer Version of It:

First, let's back it up. All of the way to 2010 when a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti at it's most populous region and displaced millions people on the island. While the official reporting on the death toll is a bit murky the Haitian government estimated at the time that nearly 140,000 people had died. To give the country relief, in came the United Nations who responded to the tragedies by sending in peacekeepers who came from Nepal. If you didn't know this, take note: Nepal has been struggling with a serious cholera problem. Cholera is an acute gastrointestinal disease that occurs when food or drink is contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria. Consumption can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, which causes extreme dehydration to the afflicted.

It wasn't a huge surprise to others when the island suffered a massive cholera outbreak because they were quickly able to trace it back to sewage at the UN peacekeeper camp in Haiti which had gone untreated and seeped into the biggest river in Haiti. That is, except for the United Nations, who following the outbreak denied involvement. More than 9,000 deaths and over 700,000 cases of lines have been reported in Haiti that are cholera related.

That brings us to... Yesterday, when the UN changed its position on their part in the initial outbreak and shared a new approach to putting an end to it. Since then a class-action lawsuit in a Brooklyn federal court filed by cholera victims has received attention for filing against the organization over their spreading of the disease. Last night, the decision to dismiss the case was upheld by an appeals court. Now the victims will have to appeal to the Supreme Court within 90 days if they wish to seek justice.

The Takeaway:

This isn't the first time the U.N. has faced recent criticism for making bad situations worse, so this new development could have a serious affect on how they participate in relief efforts in the future. The admission yesterday brings a huge shift in their position on the disaster after over five years of denial. Here's to seeing what remedy they resolve on and seeing justice for the victims.