EDITORIAL: Haiti can thank U.N. for cholera epidemic


Friday, Dec 2 2011, 7:50 pm

Haiti’s recent history has us wondering if the voodoo-practicing nation is cursed.

Amid its ongoing efforts to recover from the January 2010 earthquake, the Caribbean country is now suffering from “the worst cholera outbreak in recent history.” More than 6,700 people have died and nearly 500,000 have contracted the bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. The World Health Organization believes that the epidemic could last another two to three years. The United States, which has provided billions of dollars in assistance to Haiti over the years, has spent $75 million in health and sanitation programs related to the cholera outbreak.

But, the cholera curse could have been avoided because it originated with blue helmets, not black magic.

Haiti hadn’t experienced a case of cholera in more than 50 years – until the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti was established to save the Haitian people. Several independent studies, including one conducted by the Centers for Diseases Control, identified Nepalese peacekeepers as the most likely source of the cholera outbreak. Their U.N. camp was dumping feces into a tributary of the Artibonite River, which is used by nearby communities for drinking, bathing and irrigation. Even the U.N.’s own investigation confirmed that the cholera strains in Nepal and Haiti were “a perfect match.”

Despite this overwhelming evidence, the U.N. hasn’t offered so much as an apology to the victims. The status-of-forces agreement between the U.N. and Haiti requires a standing committee to address complaints against U.N. personnel. It hasn’t bothered to set up the committee.

The U.N.’s mission in Haiti demonstrates everything that’s wrong with international aid. Good intentions too often trump accountability and results. More often than not, aid programs cause more problems than they solve. Dr. Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist and best-selling author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa,” has documented how aid has held back developing countries. She wrote, “There is no country – anywhere in the world – that has meaningfully reduced poverty and spurred significant and sustainable levels of economic growth by relying on aid.”

That’s why we are pleased to see the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has filed a $250 million complaint against the United Nations for damages stemming from the cholera outbreak.

We don’t expect the cholera petition in Haiti to go very far. International law grants the U.N. immunity from civil and criminal penalties. Yet, the petition is a symbolic step towards increased accountability in international aid. It’s about time the U.N. stopped being “subject only to the regulation of its own good intentions.”


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2 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: Haiti can thank U.N. for cholera epidemic

  1. Why does everyone choose to ignore that the UN had contracted with a HAITIAN company to dispose of the waste at that camp. When the company failed to get rid of the waste it overflowed into the river. The UN did not check for cholera, but it entered the river because a haitian company did not do the job it was hired for.

    1. @William- Yes, this is true, and the company that the UN hired to handle the human waste from the Napalese battallion was SANCO, partially owned by Elizabeth Delatour (Rene Preval’s WIFE) and the since-removed presidential candidate, Jude Celestin.

      They struck their names from the ownership documents immediately after this news was divulged to the public.

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