U.N. wants $200 million to pay Haiti's cholera victims, communities

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations hopes it can raise $200 million for payments to families of more than 9,300 cholera victims in Haiti and to communities worst-affected by the outbreak of the disease, which has been blamed on Nepali U.N. peacekeepers.

Half could be spent on communities, with the remaining $100 million paid to families of victims, U.N. special advisor David Nabarro told reporters. This would allow for payments of some $10,000 per family.

Nabarro said raising the funds through donations would be “highly unlikely” and U.N. officials would discuss with member states whether the world body could add the cost to its budget, paid by 193 U.N. member states through assessed contributions.

So far, he said it had “proved to be very hard indeed to get any traction” from member states on providing donations.

“I have felt a little bit disheartened about it,” Nabarro said. “I’m not in a situation where I feel confident about it.”

Nabarro said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who steps down at the end of 2016 after two five-year terms, is due to propose the payment plan to the U.N. General Assembly in the coming weeks as part of a new approach to dealing with cholera in the Caribbean country.

The new approach would also include raising a further $200 million to fund rapid response teams to combat cholera outbreaks and begin building water and sanitation systems throughout impoverished Haiti. Nabarro said only a quarter of Haitians have toilets and half have access to clean drinking water.

The United Nations has not legally accepted responsibility for the outbreak. But Ban said in August the U.N. has a “moral responsibility” to help cholera victims and families with material support.

Haiti was free of cholera until 2010, when U.N. peacekeepers dumped infected sewage into a river. Since then, thousands have died of the disease that causes uncontrollable diarrhea and more than 800,000 people have fallen ill.

A new report by the independent U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights has concluded that scientific evidence “now points overwhelmingly to the responsibility of the peacekeeping mission as the source of the outbreak.”

Nabarro said the United Nations wanted to start consulting with communities in Haiti on how a material support program could work, but said “it’s very difficult for us to be discussing amounts of money with families if we’ve not got some promises from potential sources of funding before we go ahead.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio