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United Nations sued over Haiti cholera outbreak

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Wednesday were sued for negligence over claims that peacekeepers working for the organization in Nepal introduced cholera to Haiti when they were sent to the Caribbean nation after an earthquake there in 2010.

The UN "failed to exercise reasonable care" in deploying personnel from Nepal to Haiti, "knowing that Nepal was a country in which cholera is endemic and where a surge of infections had just been reported," says a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.

The suit was filed on behalf of five Haitians and Haitian- Americans whose family members died of the disease or were infected with cholera. Plaintiffs allege the UN stationed personnel on a base on the banks of a tributary of the Artibonite River, Haiti's longest waterway and the primary water source for tens of thousands of people.

Raw sewage and contaminated water was then discharged into the waterway by the UN workers, according to the complaint. Untreated human waste was also put in unprotected open-air pits outside the base where it also flowed into the tributary, the plaintiffs alleged. Cholera is a disease that causes severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death.

The resulting epidemic killed 8,500 people and sickened 679,000 others in Haiti, according to the plaintiffs, who are seeking class-action status. -- Bloomberg News

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