UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has apologised for the deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti that claimed around 9,300 lives and infected over 800,000 people in 2010. He admitted that peacekeepers from Nepal were responsible for bringing the disease into the nation, which was previously cholera-free.

In a report published on Thursday (1 December), the UN secretary-general said: "The preponderance of the evidence and the weight of the circumstantial evidence does lead to the conclusion that personnel associated with the Mirebalais United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti facility were the most likely source of introduction of cholera into Haiti."

The report was presented at a special meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York, where UN chief directly addressed the people of Haiti in three languages and said, "We apologise to the Haitian people. We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role.

"As a father and grandfather, I felt tremendous heartache at the pain so many families have had to endure. I will never forget it," he added.

Acknowledging his apology, special rapporteur Philip Alston said "the secretary-general has finally acted, albeit in his last month in office, after years of stonewalling", but added that his confession was a "half-apology".

"The determination not to accept legal responsibility entrenches a scandalous legal maneuver designed to sidestep the UN's legal obligations. It renders a meaningful apology impossible, as is made clear by the half-apology of the secretary-general today: he apologizes that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera, but not for causing the disease in the first place," Alston said.

According to experts, cholera was introduced in Haiti by infected Nepalese UN peacekeepers who were part of a UN peacekeeping force established in 2004 after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was thrown out of office by an armed rebellion.

The number of the peacekeepers was increased after the 2010 earthquake and the outbreak was blamed on a leak in sewage pipes at a UN base.

Haiti cholera
Haitians watch a broadcast of outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's apology for the world body's role in a deadly cholera outbreak at the Office of International Lawyers in Port-au-Prince, HaitiREUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares