Ending the Cholera Epidemic in Haiti

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, is suffering from a cholera epidemic. Cholera, a waterborne bacterial plague, often causes acute diarrhea and fatal dehydration if it is not treated quickly.  This scourge has sickened nearly 800,000 Haitians, killing nearly 10,000 of them since 2010.  Hundreds of new cases continue to be reported every week.  Cholera was brought to Haiti by infected Nepalese members of a United Nations peacekeeping force in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that year. The sloppy sanitation system the UN built allowed fecal waste containing cholera germs to enter the country’s water supply.

Although this crisis does not seem as important as the other catastrophes with which the United Nations is currently dealing, most notably the Syrian refugee crisis and famines that threaten 20 million people in Africa and Yemen, the United Nations directly caused this disaster.

“For the sake of the Haitian people . . . we have a moral responsibility to act,” Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General as the time, told the General Assembly last December.  He also apologized to the Haitian people and announced a $400 million strategy to “provide material assistance and support” for victims, which was a “rare public act of contrition by the United Nations.”  United Nations ambassador, Nikki R. Haley labeled the cholera crisis “nothing short of devastating.”

The United Nations’ strategy to fight the epidemic, however, has received little support.  Only a handful of the 193 member states have contributed to the fund earmarked for this cause. Two reasons appear to be prominent—donor fatigue caused by the numerous problems currently afflicting the world and concern that the money will be used effectively.  The UN’s effort to raise funds has been further hindered by the Trump administration’s intention to cut US spending on foreign aid. 

“While the U.N. has admitted to wrongdoing and promised to create a fund to provide restitution to the people of Haiti victimized by cholera,” Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, said in a statement last week, “they have failed to make good on these promises.”  Surely, the world’s people do have a moral and humanitarian responsibility to stop the suffering of the Haitian people inadvertently introduced by the United Nations.

Gary SmithComment