Port-au-Prince: UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti on Monday, vowing to help the country end a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 8,500 people since 2010 and that some blame on UN peacekeepers.
Ban promised to seek $2.2 billion from international donors to help the destitute nation fight the disease, which has also infected more than 700,000 people, over the next 10 years.
There had been no cholera in Haiti for at least 150 years until it was allegedly introduced by Nepalese UN peacekeepers sent there in the wake of the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
The source of the cholera epidemic was traced to a river that runs next to a UN camp in the central town of Mirebalais, where Nepalese troops had been based, and the strain is the same as the one endemic in Nepal.
The United Nations has up to now denied any responsibility over the outbreak and has so far not offered an apology or compensation for the outbreak, even as three different lawsuits have been filed in US courts.
Before arriving in Haiti, Ban said it was the moral duty of the United Nations and the international community to help Haiti fight the disease.
"Regardless of what the legal implication may be, as the secretary-general of the United Nations and as a person, I feel very sad," Ban told the Miami Herald in a story published Sunday.
Ban, accompanied Monday by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, visited a village in central Haiti that was particularly hard hit by the epidemic, speaking briefly in Haitian Creole to residents.
"I know that an unacceptable number of people are still affected by the disease. I am here today with my wife to tell you that I share your pain," Ban said.
"We are making progress and are going to continue to mobilize all of our energy to free Haiti from this disease," Ban said.