FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Haiti’s Cholera Victims’ Message to the UN

RIVYE KANO, HAITI.

Gathered silently in the shade of a mango tree here, dozens of people patiently wait their turn to tell us about the horror that descended on their community a year ago. Shortly after drinking from the local water source, entire families started to get violently ill with diarrhea and vomiting. It was an outbreak of cholera, the vicious waterborne disease that can kill within hours.

Fathers and mothers and children were rushed over the rutted mountain roads to the local hospital, but many did not reach care in time. Saint Claire Vincent’s mother’s body was taken from the hospital in a bag to be thrown into a pit with other kolera victims. Maudena Zalys and her brother survived, but her father did not.  “I can’t explain the feeling I got when they announced he had died,” she says.

The community’s leader had to send his regrets for this meeting. He was burying his father today, another victim of cholera, which has claimed over 6,000 Haitian lives and infected almost a half million more people, all in little more than a year.

The folks here at Rivye Kano and some 5,000 other Haitian cholera victims are represented by the partnership of Port-au-Prince-based Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, who have filed an extraordinary claim against an entity their own petition calls “a unique global leader”–the United Nations.

Overwhelming evidence, including studies by the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control, the Harvard Cholera Group, and an investigation commissioned by the U.N. itself, identifies the source of the cholera outbreak as Nepalese troops participating in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Haiti had not reported a single chase of cholera for over 50 years before the U.N. failed to screen the troops coming from Nepal, a country where cholera is endemic. The U.N. then allowed reckless disposal of the troops’ untreated waste into the Meille River, just a few kilometers from this Rivye Kano village and a tributary of Haiti’s largest river, the Artibonite. The claim asks in part for the U.N. to partner with the Haitian government to establish a much-needed country-wide safe water program.

“This case is important because it calls for the United Nations to uphold the principles they promote, especially the most basic human rights of life, health, and justice,” says Bureau des Avocats Internationaux’s directing attorney Mario Joseph. Joseph himself grew up in the rural Artibonite Valley here, drinking from an irrigation ditch that is now contaminated with cholera.

The U.N. is the world’s chief source of rhetoric about the rule of law, and knows well the importance of accountability in this country plagued by an ongoing history of impunity for the powerful. Will the United Nations, which says it is still investigating the claims, acknowledge its duty to remedy this latest disaster in a country whose people have already suffered so much?

Here in Rivye Kano, Ylianise Oscar, who watched helplessly as her mother died last winter, knows what she thinks the answer should be. “A mother is something special and precious; the most important thing in my life,” she says. “The UN should take responsibility for having brought the kolera into our community and our lives.”

Fran Quigley teaches and directs the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

More articles by:

Fran Quigley is a professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, where he directs the Health and Human Rights Clinic. He is the author of How Human Rights Can Build Haiti (Vanderbilt University Press).

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail