When it comes to granting interviews about the world’s worst ongoing cholera epidemic, the UN is in a tough spot. On one hand, desperate for funds, the organization needs all the publicity it can get. Fourteen months after it announced a $2.27 billion project to eradicate the waterborne disease in Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic with high-level fanfare, just $180 million has been disbursed. Badly needed water and sanitation infrastructure remain a pipe dream in Haiti, while doctors and other cholera responders are leaving the Caribbean country in droves.
But the UN is equally desperate to avoid questions when it comes to one sticky detail: the overwhelming evidence that the UN caused the epidemic in the first place. The organization’s main tactic has been to cover up its role; recent attempts to get comment on the record have yielded absurdities, obfuscation, and reporters chasing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon down the hall. Now, having declined to internally review the claims, the UN is facing a U.S. federal lawsuit that could compel it to pay billions in restitution—another good reason not to talk.
The man caught in the middle is Pedro Medrano, the assistant UN secretary-general tapped last fall to coordinate the UN’s cholera response in Haiti. A Chilean-born official with decades of UN experience, primarily in food assistance in Latin America, Medrano is committed to ending an outbreak that has killed more than 8,500 in Haiti and hundreds more across the region (it has now spread to the mainland, with a sustained outbreak in…Have an account?
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