Journalists who specialize in the UN are rare; George Russell’s retirement is unhappy news.
It’s amazing that major newspapers and television stations pay so little attention to the United Nations, given its extraordinary reach, the sheer number of its many fingers, and the keenness with which it attempts to interfere in every corner of our lives.
I’ve observed elsewhere that while Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, the UN machine persists. Experienced teams of reporters should be closely monitoring this organization. But that doesn’t happen.
Journalists who specialize in the UN are rare. Editors who think this behemoth should be systematically scrutinized are scarce. Which is why George Russell’s recent retirement is unwelcome news.
Russell is a longtime veteran of America’s Time magazine, back when that brand was still respected. In 2000, he became president and editor of Time magazine Canada.
Afterward, between 2005 and late 2018, Russell kept a close eye on the UN over at FoxNews. His articles should be bundled into a textbook of required reading for journalism students. That textbook might be called The UN’s Sordid Record.
For example, Russell wrote about the UN’s campaign of denial and misinformation concerning the cholera epidemic it introduced into Haiti. The extremely short version of that story is as follows:
UN peacekeepers had been stationed in that exceptionally poor, exceptionally dysfunctional country since 2004 in order to keep a lid on violence and crime. The power of UN officials was therefore immense, rivaling and perhaps exceeding that of elected Haitian officials.
When an earthquake devastated Haiti in January 2010, rebuilding was a huge job and many of the UN’s actions and decisions were newsworthy. In October of that year, a new contingent of UN peacekeepers arrived in a rural area that hadn’t been harmed by the quake nine months earlier.
Cholera causes extreme diarrhea and vomiting. If not treated quickly, acute dehydration leads to death. Cholera had never before been recorded in Haiti (journalists, including Russell, have sometimes been confused about this point, but medical experts are adamant).
These particular peacekeepers were from Nepal, which had just experienced a cholera outbreak. The UN didn’t vaccinate them beforehand. It didn’t perform tests to ensure they weren’t carrying the disease prior to their arrival. Some of these men were, in fact, infected. The disease likely spread to their colleagues in transit.
An Al Jazeera English news report from Haiti, October 2010.
The sewage tanks at their Haiti encampment were routinely emptied into a nearby open pit. On one occasion, shortly after their arrival, an immense amount of sewage was dumped into a river, apparently because the open pit was already overflowing.
Ordinary people drank the water downstream. They bathed in it. It contaminated their buckets, their cooking pots, and their clothing.
This triggered what has been called the world’s worst cholera epidemic. More than 10,000 Haitians have died since then. More than 800,000 have been infected.
Yet many people still have no idea the UN was responsible.
Links to Russell’s articles about Haiti appear below, in chronological order. Of special interest is one at the bottom of the list, titled UN apologizes for Haiti’s cholera epidemic without noting it brought the disease.
Another one begins this way:
United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world for years poured untreated or untested sewage into public waters…and only sporadically kept the environmental safety and sanitation records that missions are supposed to…
If what you’ve just read is useful or helpful,
please consider supporting this blog
- With Haiti in Ruins, Some U.N. Relief Workers Live Large on ‘Love Boat’ (Apr 2010) The U.N. is spending over $10 million to house some of its Haiti relief workers on a pair of chartered cruise ships – one of which has been dubbed the “Love Boat” by U.N. staff – and some of the funds are going to a company closely linked to the government of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. [backed up here]
- U.N.’s Ballooning $732 Million Haiti Peacekeeping Budget Goes Mostly to Its Own Personnel (Apr 2010) The United Nations has quietly upped this year’s peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island. [backed up here]
- Cash for Clinton — in the U.N.’s New Haiti Peacekeeping Budget (May 2010) The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in battered Haiti is one of the most expensive in the world – and it’s about to get even more so. One of the reasons being given this time is the need to add support for the U.N.’s special envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton. [backed up here]
- Floating Your Boat? U.N.’s ‘Flotel’ in Haiti Is Vastly Overpriced, Says Expert (June 2010) [backed up here]
- United Nations Requests Nearly $1 Billion More for Haiti Peacekeeping (Dec 2010) The United Nations, which spent more than $732 million on peacekeeping efforts in earthquake-battered Haiti during its last budgetary year, wants another $864.1 million from donors to cover the cost of the peacekeeping stabilization force on the island through the end of June, 2011. [backed up here]
- U.N. Admits at Least $600G Lost on Overpriced Boat That Housed Haiti Peacekeepers (Mar 2011) The United Nations has admitted that it lost at least $600,000 on its rental of a comfortably-appointed cruise ship for U.N. staffers in the early stages of rescue operations last year in earthquake-shattered Haiti. [backed up here]
- U.N.-Sponsored Report on Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak Points to U.N. Itself as Culprit (May 2011) A United Nations-sponsored report into the causes of a deadly cholera outbreak that ravaged Haiti in the wake of its disastrous 2010 earthquake has discovered a culprit – the U.N. itself. [backed up here]
- download the UN report referred to in the above article here: Final Report of the Independent Panel of Experts on the Cholera Outbreak in Haiti
- Immunity or impunity? Lawsuit seeks to hold UN accountable for Haiti cholera epidemic (Oct 2013) Can the United Nations be held legally accountable for its actions in a U.S. court? That question is the crux of a lawsuit filed this week that wants to hold the world organization accountable for the deaths of thousands of Haitians in the 2010 outbreak of cholera that still smolders today. [backed up here and here]
- In Haiti, UNICEF handed out millions without proper oversight, report says (May 2014) Even while it was sending out urgent appeals for funds to help poor people in Haiti, the local office of UNICEF was handing out tens of millions of dollars to local partners without proper oversight, and losing track of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of vital medical supplies, according to an internal UNICEF audit. [backed up here]
- download the 2013 audit of UNICEF’s Haiti operations, referred to in the above article, here: Internal Audit of the Haiti Country Office
- Amid Haiti cholera epidemic, UN peacekeepers spill sewage and ignore water treatment, says internal report (Aug 2016) While the United Nations touted its efforts in Haiti aimed at ending the world’s worst modern cholera epidemic – a calamity many experts assert the U.N. itself caused – U.N. peacekeepers were blatantly violating their own sanitary rules for containing the disease, according to an internal U.N. report that was suppressed for months. [backed up here]
- download the audit, referred to in the above article, here: Audit of Waste Management in the United Nations stabilization mission in Haiti
- UN stonewall on Haiti cholera epidemic starts to crumble (Aug 2016) The United Nations’ wall of denial concerning its responsibility for Haiti’s six-year-old cholera epidemic – and claims of diplomatic immunity regarding the consequences – appears to be crumbling. [backed up here]
- As cholera ravaged Haiti, UN peacekeepers around the world made a mess (Aug 2016) United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world for years poured untreated or untested sewage into public waters or agricultural lands in some of the most ravaged countries they protect, failed to dispose safely of wastewater, sewage and garbage, and only sporadically kept the environmental safety and sanitation records that missions are supposed to report regularly for themselves and for U.N. headquarters. [backed up here]
- Haiti cholera scandal: US bolsters UN wall of denial, legal investigator says (Oct 2016) The United Nations’ wall of denial about its responsibility for causing Haiti’s 6-year-old cholera epidemic is stronger than ever – and a U.N. human rights expert has put the focus directly on the Obama administration for helping to keep the barrier in place. [backed up here]
- UN apologizes for Haiti’s cholera epidemic without noting it brought the disease (Dec 2016) United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon has ended – sort of – six years of UN stonewalling over Haiti’s mammoth cholera epidemic with a weak apology. [backed up here and here]
→ Receive posts via e-mail by signing up on the right side of this page, above – or by following this blog on Facebook and Twitter.