The World Prepares To Abandon Its Moral Responsibility To Haiti

In 2010, as reported by the New York Times, cholera was introduced to the nation of Haiti due to “fecal waste laced with cholera germs from latrines used by the Nepalese peacekeepers into the water supply.”  Speaking recently about the scale-back in assistance to Haiti, Nikki Haley, the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations stated that the removal of troops from the nation was “a success story.”  Such statements are in line with the Trump administration’s desire to scale back on foreign aid, which has sent the UN scrambling to rethink its budget as the US is the largest funder of the organization.  The reduction in funds is set to derail what little assistance the UN has been able to provide to the island nation.

It was not until December 2016 that Ban Ki-moon, then-Secretary General of the UN, stated that the organization had a “moral responsibility” to the people of Haiti regarding the epidemic it had introduced; he added a pledge of $400 million dollars to those who had been impacted.  But, as of March 2017, the amount raised by the organization is approximately $2 million, which is a far cry from the goal of $400 million.  Dr. David Nabarro, speaking earlier this year at World Economic Forum, cited donor reluctance as the issue. He explained that “Donors will respond, but they need to be convinced that they’re going to be given a good proposition for what’s done with their money.”

From a humanitarian point of view, it is difficult to see how the withdrawal of support, both logistically and financially, from Haiti would be a success.  While previous efforts have not fixed the many problems facing the Caribbean nation, complete withdrawal of support is certainly not going to help the situation to improve.  Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and it is not equipped to handle the cholera situation on its own.  Additionally, it was the UN that introduced the problem in the first place and it has an obligation, one could argue that it is both legal and moral, to assist in the cleanup process.

UN assistance to Haiti began thirteen years ago when the international organization took over the peacekeeping responsibilities that had been initiated by the US.  The US had originally stepped in to assist the rebel groups opposing then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was finally overthrown in the beginning months of 2004.  As the opposing forces clashed and power grabs were made, natural disasters struck the island, which exacerbated the problems faced by the Haitians.  Unfortunately, as the UN sought to keep the peace, some of its workers introduced cholera to the nation, thereby turning chaos into a crisis.  The cholera epidemic began in 2010 and has ravaged the country ever since, infecting hundreds of thousands and killing approximately 9,400.

With that said, Cholera-related cases and deaths are down in Haiti.  According to a report released by the UN in April of this year, reported cases are down from 185,351 (in 2010) to 41,421 (2016), while deaths have decreased from 3,951 (2010) to 447 (2016).  Though the disease will likely linger, it appears to be running its course, but the damage has already been done.  People have died and thousands have suffered because the UN made a mistake.  The organization has taken the right step in claiming responsibility, but removing much-needed assistance shows that the organization was simply paying lip service to its responsibility.  Nonetheless, ultimately the blame for this falls upon the international community and its failure to provide the funding necessary for the UN to undertake the necessary measures.  The United Nations can only work if the international community follows through with the promises put forth in organizations charter.

S.M. Ellison
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