Haiti, and luck

Place of birth, and station in life, and opportunities. Which brings us to Haiti.

Briefly, throughout its history the country has seemed benighted. Since its independence in 1804 its economic and social development has lagged far behind others of the region. In fact, it is the poorest in the Latin America and Caribbean region, with a literacy rate of some 61 percent and life expectancy of 63 years.

Moreover, over the years development of basic institutions has progressed little – despite the presence of international developmental and aid organisations. And one of the curiosities is the ubiquitousness of well-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which, one would think, would by now have contributed to some measure of institutional development and strengthening after all these years.

With that brief background one has this little challenge to deal with. The arrival of Nepalese soldiers as part of the United Nations (UN) contingent of ‘peace keepers’, seemingly a permanent presence there, would bode ill for that country. Yes, those Nepalese soldiers? Cholera. And we do remember the country is poor with few well-functioning institutions and with a vulnerable population that also had to cope with a catastrophic earthquake of the same year, 2010. And we all know the good deeds for which the UN is well known?

So we do a quick examination of the performance of that organisation in that poor country. The Guardian comes to our rescue with this discomfiting tidbit, UN could have prevented Haiti cholera epidemic with $2,000 health kit – study. Couple paragraphs to draw us into the article,

The devastating Haiti cholera epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives and will cost more than $2bn to eradicate could have been prevented if the United Nations had used a basic health kit for a total of less than $2,000, scientists have found.

A team of Yale epidemiologists and lawyers has looked at how the cholera bacterium was introduced to Haiti by United Nations peacekeepers relocated there in the aftermath of its 2010 earthquake. Yale’s startling finding is that simple screening tests costing $2.54 each, combined with preventive antibiotics at less than $1 per peacekeeper, could have avoided one of the worst outbreaks of the deadly disease in modern history.

Of course, in fairness we do know how strapped for such funds that agency is?

Since information such as this ranks low as news for the corporate media, for emphasis we also point to a referenced article. And here we see the courage of the dedicated professional in pointing to unprofessional conduct of bureaucrats, here the conduct of the UN Secretary-General – a good sign is that for some, reputation ranks much higher than accommodating, timid silence in the face of gross injustice.

As The Guardian reports, UN’s own experts chastise Ban Ki-moon over handling of Haiti cholera outbreakUN’s own experts chastise Ban Ki-moon over handling of Haiti cholera outbreak. Again, couple paragraphs to stir the blood,

The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has been chastised by five of the UN’s own human rights experts who accuse him of undermining the world body’s credibility and reputation by denying responsibility for the devastating outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

In a withering letter to the UN chief, the five special rapporteurs say that his refusal to allow cholera victims any effective remedy for their suffering has stripped thousands of Haitians of their fundamental right to justice. The letter is believed to be the first time that the UN’s guardians of human rights have turned their spotlight onto the UN hierarchy itself, as opposed to individual nation states that are the usual target of their criticism.

Yes, that accident of birth. Such callous tardiness or disregard would never have been shown in, say, any ‘advanced’ country or Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf States. But Haiti is accustomed. So, if not Haitian, we can count ourselves – if we want to believe that similar egregious treatment is not being meted out to the voiceless elsewhere.


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