UN response to Haiti cholera 'a disgrace'

A father comforts his daughter as she receives treatment for cholera alongside another little girl, at a clinic in southwestern Haiti, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Source: AAP

An Australian UN human rights expert has criticised his own agency for not accepting responsibility for a cholera outbreak in Haiti.

An Australian UN human rights expert has slammed his own agency for denying legal responsibility for the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti caused by UN peacekeepers, calling it "a disgrace" and urging the world body to issue an apology and accept responsibility.

Philip Alston said in a report submitted to the UN General Assembly that "deeply flawed" and unfounded legal advice provided by UN lawyers is preventing the organisation from accepting responsibility for the outbreak, which has sickened nearly 800,000 Haitians and killed some 9,300.

Alston, a law professor at New York University, is the UN's independent expert on extreme poverty and human rights, appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. He presented his report to the General Assembly's human rights committee Tuesday.

Haiti cholera
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon visits a shelter for families affected by Hurricane Matthew, in Haiti, 15 October 2016.

Researchers say cholera was first detected in Haiti's central Artibonite Valley and cite evidence that it was introduced to the country's biggest river from a UN base where Nepalese troops were deployed as part of a peacekeeping operation which has been in the country since 2004.

For years the UN denied or remained silent on longstanding allegations that it was responsible for the outbreak, while responding to lawsuits in US courts by claiming immunity under a 1946 convention.

In August, a US appeals court upheld the United Nations' immunity from a lawsuit filed on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims who blame the organisatoin for the epidemic.

Secretary-General Ban said immediately after that ruling that he "deeply regrets the suffering" that cholera has caused and "the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the victims."

He announced that the UN was working on a package that would provide "material assistance." Details of the $US400 million ($A520 million) package were announced on Monday.