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BLAME HAITI? November 15, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History, Peace.

Weather has taken an extraordinary toll over the last year in the United States. The cost is likely to be high in dollar terms and in other ways.

The poor suffer the more that other groups, and global poor suffer most of all. There is a tendency to scapegoat the victims. The case of Haiti seems to illustrate the process.

At The Guardian, Mark Weisbrot blames the cholera epidemic on the presence of UN troops in Haiti. He reports this disease preceded the earthquake of January 2010, and the recent devastation of Hurricane Sandy. He argues that the cholera epidemic could be easily solved. He reports:

Cholera is transmitted mainly through drinking water that is contaminated by the deadly bacteria. To get rid of it, you need to create an infrastructure where people have clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that this would cost about $1bn for Haiti. In fact, that is close to what the UN has been spending in just one year to keep its 10,000 troops in the country.

Furthermore, these troops have no legitimate mission in Haiti. They are not “peacekeeping” troops, as they are often inaccurately described. There is no peace agreement for them to enforce, nor is there a post-conflict situation that would justify their presence.

In fact, the UN troops were brought into Haiti in 2004, after Haiti’s democratically-elected government was overthrown by a coup that the United States and its allies helped organize. Their stay in Haiti has been marred by a series of scandals and abuses, including the killing of civilians, and a number of prominent cases of rape and sexual abuse of Haitians. According to polling data, most Haitians do not want them there.

So, there is one obvious source of money for ridding the country of cholera, but there is also plenty of money that governments pledged after the earthquake that has not been distributed. Only about 53% of the $5.35bn pledged by international donors has been delivered. For the US government, it is just 27% (pdf), or $250m, of $900m pledged. If these governments want to help the UN fix the mess that they created, they have already committed the funds to do so.

It would be far better, as President Morsi of Egypt has suggested, if the United Nations was more democratic, representing the people of the World, as distinct from the special pleading of countries such as Australia, prepared to pay $65 million to have a seat on the Security Council for two years. Nonetheless, politics aside, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is prepared to make the case for the people of Haiti in the face of silence elsewhere. The UN has to work with the local government.

The Head of OCHA, Johan Peleman, describes the situation and appeals for money:

Similarly, the tragedies of Iraq, Libya and Syria can be only understood as a consequence of “the greatest international crime”, the one for which the perpetrators remain unindicted. The historical role of justice, which accounts, for example, for the origins of the Common Law, was the duty of sovereign governments.The United Nations and its agencies, which seems to be the only organizing force that to the global poor, is a league of nations, rather than a supervening government.



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