U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to raise $2.2 billion in aid money to combat the cholera epidemic in Haiti, amid allegations that the U.N. itself is responsible for the outbreak.
Ban is visiting rural sections of Haiti to launch a program to improve sanitation and fight the spread of cholera. More than 8,500 people have died and at least 700,000 have contracted the disease since the outbreak began in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake that hit the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.
Evidence suggests that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, introduced the disease to the country while stationed there. No cases of the disease, which is spread through infected sewage, had been recorded in Haiti for 100 years prior to the 2010 outbreak.
Earlier this year, nearly 1,500 Haitians filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the U.N. A previous claim by cholera victims was rejected by Ban. The organization currently faces three lawsuits as a result of the epidemic, and has attempted to reject them by claiming legal immunity.
This most recent fundraising announcement is a follow-up to 2012, when Ban introduced a $2.2 billion plan to help eradicate cholera in Haiti within 10 years. According to the U.N., donations have been slow and the organization has not been able to raise the $400 million needed to fund the initiative for the first two years.
On Monday, Ban and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe visited Hinche, a village in central Haiti, to launch a program aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene in rural regions. About half of Haiti’s rural residents do not have access to adequate sanitation.
Additional reporting from Associated Press