UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Haiti to see firsthand a sliver of the extensive destruction left by Hurricane Matthew as storm victims continued to express frustration at delays in aid more than a week-and-a-half since the Category 4 storm hit.
Stepping out of a UN jet at the airport in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince yesterday, Ban was greeted by Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles before the pair boarded a helicopter traveling to the storm-damaged southern city of Les Cayes. Ban was scheduled to visit one of many schools serving as an emergency shelter for families who lost homes.
Shortly before Ban’s helicopter was due to land, a clash broke out between rock-throwing residents and UN peacekeepers at the UN base in Les Cayes. Roughly 100 frustrated residents began hurling rocks when trucks ferrying food aid arrived.
Haitian police officers and UN peacekeepers scattered the group with tear gas. Calm was restored as Ban’s helicopter approached.
In recent days, Associated Press reporters have observed a number of skirmishes between Haitians in hard-hit areas seeking emergency food aid distributed by international and local organizations.
During his brief visit, Ban was not expected to announce specifics of a UN package announced two months ago that would provide “material assistance” to Haitian cholera victims. Officials said that consultations and other work has been delayed by the latest postponed presidential election in Haiti and Matthew’s destruction.
In August, the UN for the first time acknowledged that it played a role in introducing cholera to Haiti and vowed to aid victims in the troubled Caribbean nation, which has experienced the worst outbreak of the disease in its recent history. At that time, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that that “the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the victims.”
The UN for years had denied or been silent about ample evidence that cholera was introduced to Haiti’s biggest river in October 2010 by inadequately treated sewage from a UN peacekeeping base about 10 months after a devastating earthquake. The world body has answered lawsuits in US courts by claiming immunity under a 1946 convention.
Beatrice Lindstrom, a human rights lawyer with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, said activists were hopeful that Ban would use his brief visit to “address the Haitian people directly and fully acknowledge the UN’s responsibility for introducing cholera to Haiti.”
“The need for a new UN response that both controls and eliminates cholera and compensates the victims who have suffered so much is now more dire than ever,” she said. Ban to depart for Ecuador’s capital of Quito late yesterday. Health authorities in hurricane-ravaged southwest Haiti say they have been struggling with a surge of patients with cholera in the wake of the storm.
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