Jeff Glor, CBS News
A natural disaster occurred in Haiti in 2010 when a devastating earthquake
hit that nation. It was quickly followed by a devastating epidemic of
cholera. Victims blamed United Nations peacekeepers for bringing the
disease to the country. Now they're filing an unprecedented lawsuit
With 10 million people and little access to clean water, the country was hardly prepared for a cholera epidemic.
Lizette Paul's family has been torn apart. Her daughter, brother, and father all died.
"When I think about them," Paul told us, "I know the pain they had to go through before they passed away."
is now one of those suing the United Nations for bringing cholera to
the country -- an epidemic that began after U.N. peacekeepers arrived
following the earthquake in 2010.
Nicole Phillips is the
attorney handling the case from Port-au-Prince. Asked if outbreak would
have happened had the United Nations weren't in Haiti after the quake,
Phillips said no.
"The people thought that water was
safe to drink, and they kept drinking it," she said. "And now that
cholera has spread so far into the river systems that it would be
impossible to eradicate."
Forensic studies have linked
the spread of the disease to a flawed sewage system at the U.N.'s base
for soldiers from Nepal. A United Nations test showed the culprit
bacteria came from Southeast Asia.
Cholera, spread through human feces, induces severe vomiting and diarrhea, and can kill if not treated quickly.
section of river in Mirebalais, about an hour drive northeast of
Port-au-Prince, is believed to be the source of the outbreak. Haitians
use the water to cook, clean and bathe with. Up until 2010, they said
they never had a problem.
More than 8,000 have died in the last three years.
visited a clinic that is still full, run by Oliver Schultz, of Doctors
Without Borders. "The problem in Haiti is bad," he said. "It is the
worst cholera epidemic in modern times. There are more numbers here than
probably even worldwide alone in this year."
The U.N. said it has legal immunity and will not accept claims for compensation.
What makes Lizette Paul think she can win this? "We're getting a lot of help," she told us, "and we hope to God we can win."
her brother and father gone, the family has no breadwinner, and no
money for the surviving children to attend school. Winning this case,
Paul believes, could give them a future.
And while the
lawsuit moves forward, the same strain of cholera also continues to
spread. It's already been found in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and now