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The United Nations is considering spending hundreds of millions of dollars to help Haiti deal with cholera. U.N. peacekeepers were the ones who brought the disease to Haiti six years ago. The U.N. plan is not yet finalized or funded, but on the table are direct payments to Haitians, who the U.N. says were most affected by the outbreak. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: For years, the U.N. had refused to accept responsibility for a massive cholera outbreak in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. Among all of the challenges facing Haiti, one problem the country did not have on its list of woes up to that point was cholera. The outbreak, which has been linked to sewage from a U.N. base, made hundreds of thousands of Haitians sick, and so far has killed more than 9,000. Now the U.N. admits it played a role in the original outbreak and wants to do something to fix it. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, in a briefing to the U.N. member states, has laid out a two-prong $400 million plan to tackle cholera in Haiti.
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JAN ELIASSON: The first track involves intensifying our efforts to treat and eliminate cholera as well as to improve longer-term access to clean water and sanitation.
BEAUBIEN: The second track, he said, is to provide roughly $200 million in cash and material assistance to cholera victims in Haiti. This is a sharp reversal for the global body, which continues to fend off legal challenges from people who got sick or lost family members to the disease. A spokesman for the U.N. secretary general today in New York said the U.N.'s legal position on the outbreak hasn't changed. The U.N.'s refusal to formally state that it introduced cholera into Haiti, he said, shouldn't stop the organization from trying to deal with the problem. But Philip Alston, a U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights who's been advising the U.N. on this issue, said today that this new plan to compensate Haitians without accepting full responsibility sets a terrible precedent.
PHILIP ALSTON: As the U.N. begins to operate in more and more countries around the world, as there are greater risks of these sorts of negligence claims, the U.N.'s position will be we are not accountable. We refuse accountability.
BEAUBIEN: And it's not even clear if this plan will ever actually be carried out. The big question right now is whether the U.N.'s member states will be willing to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to repair what's come to be seen in Haiti and increasingly elsewhere as a deadly blunder by the world body. Jason Beaubien, NPR News.
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