When the United Nations deployed peacekeepers to Haiti in 2004, its troops were charged with restoring order following the tumultuous departure of then-president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Their presence brought a much-needed calm after months of violence and political unrest. In the years that followed, they provided security for two democratic elections and, after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, pitched in with recovery and reconstruction efforts.
But that’s not the only legacy MINUSTAH, as the peacekeeping mission is referred to here, has created. Once popular, the UN mission now is viewed by many as a poor use of money and an unnecessary presence – a result in part of numerous scandals that have rocked the mission in recent years. From accusations of sexual abuse of two boys, ages 14 and 18, to the deadly cholera epidemic, peacekeepers are being blamed for impeding the path to a sustainable state.
“[MINUSTAH] came to help us,” says Arsene Dieujuste, a lawyer representing the 14-year-old boy. “But they ended up violating our human rights. Someone has to make this as right as possible, even though it will never be right again.”
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—Haitian police and U.N. peacekeepers have begun cracking down on bands of armed men lobbying for the country to restore its armed forces, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.
Lt. Cmdr. Jim Hoeft said U.N. troops and national police officers set up checkpoints Sunday in Haiti’s capital and others parts of the country and detained two armed men in downtown Port-au-Prince wearing military fatigues. They were then taken to a police station.
The effort aims to discourage an illegal group of armed men from parading around Port-au-Prince in military uniforms as if they were on patrol. The lightly armed men have been seen directing traffic and even sweeping streets.
Two years after Haiti’s deadly 2010 earthquake, a second humanitarian crisis continues to claim Haitian lives.
Whereas the first crisis was a natural disaster, the second — a massive outbreak of cholera — was man-made. Worse still, although the United Nations unwittingly caused the epidemic, the world’s largest humanitarian organization has disclaimed responsibility and has failed to address the legitimate demands of the thousands of Haitians affected.
In October 2010, U.N. peacekeeping troops stationed about 100 kilometers north of Port-au-Prince at a camp lacking basic sanitation facilities dumped human waste into a tributary of the Artibonite, the country’s largest river system. This set off what has become the world’s worst and fastest-spreading cholera epidemic, infecting over 500,000 people and killing more than 7,000.
Before late 2010, when U.N. troops arrived carrying pathogens from cholera-stricken Nepal, not a single case of cholera had been reported in Haiti for a century. Seven months after the outbreak, a U.N.-appointed independent panel of international experts released a report largely confirming what a number of epidemiological studies had already concluded: U.N. troops were the sole source of the disease. The report also found that the U.N. had failed not only to ensure proper sanitary waste disposal in accordance with its agreement with Haiti, but also to conduct adequate water safety tests or to take timely corrective measures when cholera exploded throughout the country.
Apparently the international community has decided that Haitians are a diseased people. Otherwise what else could explain the recurring rounds of vaccination of the last five years and the insulting sight of MINUSTAH soldiers wearing gloves to avoid skin to skin contact with the population? The latest round of vaccinations, supposedly against cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, is perplexing to say the least. Although it has killed thousands of Haitians since its introduction in Haiti by a contingent of Nepalese soldiers, the disease is highly preventable and treatable according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health experts.
Eliminate bacteria-human contamination rather than inoculate prospective victims would be the right course of action. Prior to the UN occupation (2004-?), the disease was practically non-existent in Haiti, even though 2/3 of the population did not have access to clean water. Assuredly the population had developed some immunity against the bacterium Vibrio cholerae that causes cholera, until the arrival of the Nepalese. Therefore, as carriers of the deadly strain of cholera that caused the outbreak (2010-present), the Nepalese soldiers are the ones in need of inoculation not the prospective victims who are henceforth exposed to adverse reactions from the vaccine.
Haiti, a close neighbor of the US with over nine million people, was devastated by earthquake on January 12, 2010. Hundreds of thousands were killed and many more wounded.
The UN estimated international donors gave Haiti over $1.6 billion in relief aid since the earthquake (about $155 per Haitian) and over $2 billion in recovery aid (about $173 per Haitian) over the last two years.
Yet Haiti looks like the earthquake happened two months ago, not two years. Over half a million people remain homeless in hundreds of informal camps, most of the tons of debris from destroyed buildings still lays where it fell, and cholera, a preventable disease, was introduced into the country and is now an epidemic killing thousands and sickening hundreds of thousands more.
It turns out that almost none of the money that the general public thought was going to Haiti actually went directly to Haiti. The international community chose to bypass the Haitian people, Haitian non-governmental organizations and the government of Haiti. Funds were instead diverted to other governments, international NGOs, and private companies.