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United Nations Apologizes for Haiti Cholera Spread, Not for Causing It

Researchers say cholera was introduced to Haiti by Nepalese troops who were part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.
Jimmy Jeudy bathes with water from a well that was contaminated by sea water and trash during Hurricane Matthew, in Aux Coteaux, a district of Les Cayes, Hait, Oct. 25,. The well water and rivers throughout the region also carry cholera bacteria, which epidemiologists suspect has sickened thousands of people since the storm.Dieu Nalio Chery / AP

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologized Thursday for the U.N. not doing enough to contain the spread of a cholera outbreak in Haiti, but he stopped short of apologizing for bringing the disease to the Caribbean nation.

Ban made his remarks in a speech announcing the U.N.'s new approach to cholera in Haiti, which seeks to provide aid to communities affected by the disease that has afflicted some 800,000 Haitians and killed over 9,000.

"On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly we apologize to the Haitian people. We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role," Ban said, speaking first in Creole, then repeating himself in French and English.

Related: Haiti Needs 'Massive Response' to Halt Cholera Crisis After Matthew: U.N.

Researchers say cholera was introduced to Haiti by Nepalese troops who were part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

For years the U.N. had denied or been silent on longstanding allegations that it was responsible for the outbreak, while responding to lawsuits in U.S. courts by claiming diplomatic immunity. In August, a U.S. appeals court upheld the United Nations' immunity from a lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims who blame the U.N. for the epidemic.

After the ruling, Ban said he deeply regretted the suffering that cholera has caused and the U.N. had a moral responsibility to the victims.

Related: World Health Organization Doubles Cholera Vaccine Supply

Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said Ban's apology did not go further because a panel that studied the outbreak attributed it to a number of factors.

"We now recognize that we had a role in this but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all is a step that would not be possible for us to take," Eliasson told reporters before Ban's speech.