The United Nations has formally rejected compensation claims by victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed almost 8,000 people.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Haitian President Michel Martelly to inform him of the decision.
The UN says it is immune from such claims under the UN’s Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN.
Evidence suggests cholera was introduced to Haiti through a UN base’s leaking sewage pipes.
The UN has never acknowledged responsibility for the outbreak – which has infected more than 600,000 people – saying it is impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the disease, despite the mounting evidence the epidemic was caused by poor sanitation at a camp housing infected Nepalese peacekeepers.
In a terse statement, Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said damages claims for millions of dollars filed by lawyers for cholera victims was “not receivable” under the 1947 convention that grants the UN immunity for its actions.
But a lawyer for the cholera victims said that UN immunity could not mean impunity, and said the case would now be pursued in a national court.
The UN has formally rejected compensation claims by victims of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed almost 8,000 people
The lawyer, Brian Concannon, said the victims’ legal team would challenge the UN’s right to immunity from Haitian courts, on the grounds that it had not established an alternative mechanism for dealing with accountability issues, as stipulated in its agreement with the government.
Brian Concannon also said lifting immunity would not challenge UN policy, which is protected by the convention, but its practice, such as how to test troops for disease and properly dispose of sewage.
In December the UN launched a $2 billion appeal to fight the cholera epidemic, which is currently the worst outbreak in the world, and Ban Ki-moon reiterated to Michel Martelly the UN’s commitment to the elimination of cholera in Haiti.
Cholera is a disease of poverty, analysts say. It is spread through infected faeces and, once it enters the water supply, it is difficult to stop – especially in a country like Haiti which has almost no effective sewage disposal systems.
Cuban health ministry has confirmed a cholera outbreak in Havana with 51 people infected – the biggest incidence of the disease there in decades.
An official statement said health workers had detected an increase in “watery diarrhoea” in some districts, which has been established as cholera.
The source has been identified as a foodseller who caught cholera during a previous outbreak in eastern Cuba.
Doctors have been going house to house in Havana areas, checking for symptoms.
The official confirmation follows several days of speculation about an upsurge in diarrhoea in the capital, where a 46-year-old man died of suspected cholera earlier this month.
In the central Havana district of Cerro, where the outbreak is believed to have begun, cafes and restaurants have been closed and only the sale of sealed food and drink is permitted.
Cuban health ministry has confirmed a cholera outbreak in Havana with 51 people infected
The outbreak was detected on January 6. According to the health ministry, measures taken since then mean the disease is in its “extinction phase”.
People are being urged to take care with hygiene and in the preparation of food.
Cholera is carried by contaminated water or food. It causes severe dehydration through diarrhoea and can prove fatal if untreated.
Until last July, Cuba had not experienced any significant outbreak since well before the 1959 revolution.
A patient has been diagnosed with cholera in the Cuban capital, Havana, days after three people died in a rare outbreak in the south-eastern town of Manzanillo.
More than 50 people were infected and about 1,000 have received medical attention.
The authorities say the outbreak is under control but four hospitals are prepared to isolate patients.
They say people became ill after drinking water from contaminated wells.
A patient has been diagnosed in Havana, days after three people died in a rare outbreak in the south-eastern town of Manzanillo
But it is not clear what the source of the cholera is.
Most of the cases were in Cuba’s south-eastern Granma province, more than 750 km (470 miles) from Havana.
Hundreds of medical professionals from that area, including nurses, have worked and continue to work with patients in Haiti, where tens of thousands of people were infected after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
For over a week doctors in Havana have been doing the rounds of their patients, checking for symptoms of cholera.
The infirm, elderly and pregnant have been prioritized.
Now tests on a 60-year-old woman, admitted to hospital on Wednesday, have confirmed that she has the disease.
As she was diagnosed early, doctors say she is in a stable condition.
Health officials said they had “all the necessary resources to provide adequate attention to patients.”
They said they had taken a series of measures, including taking samples of water and adding chlorine to purify it, to combat the outbreak.
Cholera is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
The Health Ministry said the last reported cholera outbreak on the island was soon after the 1959 Revolution.