The U.N.'s bloody hands in Haiti's cholera epidemic
Cholera once was unheard of Haiti. That changed when hundreds of United Nation's peacekeeping troops from Nepal arrived, following Haiti's deadly earthquake on January 12, 2010.
Since then, a deadly cholera epidemic has been ravaging Haiti - an epidemic linked months ago to sewage spilled from a poorly constructed Nepali U.N. base and into a river tributary. The scientific evidence has been irrefutable on that.
Yet today, 17 months after the first case of cholera, the U.N. remains in a denial mode about its role in the world's worst cholera epidemic. Tens of thousands of Haitians have died or been sickened, many as they went to streams to bathe, wash clothes, or brush their teeth. Yet the U.N.'s attitude has been like what you'd expect from, say, a despotic Third World despot who is accountable to nobody.
"We don't think the cholera outbreak is attributable to any single factor," Anthony Banbury, a United Nations assistant secretary general, told the The New York Times in an article on Sunday, "In Haiti, Global Failures on a Cholera Epidemic."
The U.N.'s haughty attitude has outraged Haitians and, as The Times explains, has helped to undermine international efforts to stop the cholera epidemic. Stonewalling by U.N. officials about the epidemic's cause also has provoked unrest in Haiti at some points. As The Times explains:
"Haitians were genuinely incensed - and fearful. Some wanted an explanation, others a scapegoat. Voodoo priests were being lynched for their supposed role in bringing the curse of cholera on Haiti, the government said."
Much of the lengthy front-page article deals with the muddle-through approach taken by beleaguered NGOs and others in dealing with an epidemic that caught them off guard: one that, as The Times explains, has spread into every corner of Haiti -- killing more than 7,050 Haitians and sickening more than 531,000, or 5 percent of the population. "The world rallied to confront cholera...but the mission was muddled by the United Nations' apparent role in igniting the epidemic and its unwillingness to acknowledge it," The Times notes.
Beyond that, U.N. officials have taken a blame-the-victim attitude regarding the epidemic -- claiming that even if Nepali peacekeeping troops did start it, the U.N. couldn't be held responsible. As The Times explains:
U.N. experts claimed that "the introduction of this cholera strain as a result of environmental contamination with feces could not have been the source of such an outbreak without simultaneous water and sanitation and health care system deficiencies."
Interestingly, The British left-wing medical Journal The Lancet -- which hyped civilian causalities in Iraq -- rushed to the U.N.'s defense, writing an editorial cited by The Times:
"Although interest in how the outbreak originated may be a matter of scientific curiosity for the future, apportioning blame for the outbreak now is neither fair to people working to improve a dire situation, nor helpful in combating the disease."
Ordinary Haitians, of course, might disagree. Among other things, lawyers representing cholera victims and survivors have filed a legal claim with the U.N. seeking reparations.
If the Haiti's cholera outbreak had been caused by U.S. soldiers, imagine the anti-Americanism and flag-burning that would be erupting all over the world. To date, however, the world seems to be giving the U.N. a pass - everybody, that is, except Haiti's cholera victims and survivors.