Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Water & Sanitation

UN Admits Poor Waste Management Led to Deadly Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

After years of denying allegations that its peacekeeping troops caused a cholera outbreak which has killed 10,000 people in Haiti, the United Nations now acknowledges that it played a part in the devastating event.

Haiti had not seen any cases of cholera for nearly a century before hundreds of thousands in Haiti became sick with the deadly bacterial infection in 2010.

The initial outbreak of those infected with cholera in Haiti was suspected to have been caused by leaking sewage pipes at a United Nations base which housed 454 UN peacekeepers. The peacekeepers had just come from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was already taking place, and the UN peacekeeper’s Nepal base had poorly managed sewage as well. There were pools of feces and untreated wastewater nearby.

While scientists have spoken out for the UN to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak, they had stayed quiet.

This week, (maybe in light of World Humanitarian Day?) the UN did take some responsibility for Haiti’s cholera epidemic.

"Over the past year the UN has become convinced it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera,” Farhan Haq, representing the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told the New York Times.

Read More: What You Need to Know About Water and Sanitation

The admission came after a confidential report, commissioned by the UN, stated the epidemic, “would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations.”

While infrastructure cannot be made overnight, the lack of precaution for treating waste in Nepal and having poor infrastructure in Haiti caused serious damage, death, and devastated a country.

Through the acknowledgment for the need of better practices, we can only hope the UN will be able make sure an error of this scale never happens again.

“We welcome this vital report,” said Haq, adding “will be a valuable contribution to the U.N. as we work towards a significant new set of U.N. actions.”


The views expressed here are not necessarily those of each of the partners of Global Citizen.