FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The UN’s Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

by MARK WEISBROT

Haitians have had a long and arduous struggle just to achieve the rights that most people in the rest of the hemisphere have enjoyed. From the revolution of Haitian slaves that won independence from the French in 1804, through the U.S. occupation (1915-1934), the Duvalier family dictatorship (1957-1986), and the last 20 years of devastating foreign intervention, the “international community” just hasn’t seen Haitians as having the same basic human rights as people in other countries.

They still don’t, perhaps because Haitians are too poor and black.  While the horrific earthquake of January 2010 brought international sympathy and aid – much more pledged than delivered – it didn’t bring a change of attitude toward Haiti.

This is perhaps most clear in the failure of the United Nations to take responsibility for the additional devastation they have brought to Haiti with the deadly disease of cholera. Since the outbreak began in October 2010, more than 7,445 Haitians have died of the disease and more than 580,000 have been infected, and these official numbers are an underestimate. It is now firmly established, by a number of scientific studies, that UN troops brought cholera to Haiti by dumping their human waste into the country’s water supply.

This is gross negligence that would have landed them a multi-billion dollar lawsuit if they were a private corporation, or even criminal prosecution.  But the UN has so far refused to even admit responsibility; although Bill Clinton, who is the UN’s special envoy for Haiti acknowledged in March that the UN brought cholera to Haiti.

“As cholera was brought to Haiti due to the actions of the UN, we believe that it is imperative for the UN to now act decisively to control the cholera epidemic, ” said Congressional Democrats in an appeal to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a few weeks ago.  Despite the fact that the letter was signed by the majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, it was ignored by the media in the United States.  And Rice has yet to respond.

But controlling and putting an end to the epidemic is the least that the UN can do for Haiti, having caused this disaster.  We know that it can be done, too – as it has in many other countries – by building the necessary infrastructure so that Haitians can have access to clean drinking water. The cost has been estimated at about $800 million, or the amount that the UN spends on keeping its soldiers there for a year.

Haiti has no civil conflict or peacekeeping agreement. The UN military mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) therefore has no legal or legitimate basis – on the contrary, it was sent there in 2004 to occupy the country after Washington and its allies organized the overthrow of the country’s democratically elected president.

Besides bringing the cholera epidemic to Haiti and wasting billions of dollars, MINUSTAH troops have committed serious abuses, from killings of civilians to sexual abuse.  Last September Uruguayan troops were caught on video sexually assaulting an 18-year-old Haitian man. In the latest MINUSTAH sexual abuse scandal, Pakistani troops were found guilty of raping a 14-year-old boy; they received a year in prison from a Pakistani military tribunal.  Perhaps more damning for the UN in this case is that higher UN officials have been implicated by Haitian authorities as having attempted to cover-up the crime.

No wonder more than 70 percent of Haitians responding to a recent poll said they wanted MINUSTAH to leave within a year.  The UN can use the money currently wasted on this military force to rid the country of cholera.  Then, at least, they will have cleaned up one of their biggest crimes in the country.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail