This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
It couldn’t help Haiti recover from an earthquake, but the UN’s gonna rescue the planet.
UNESCO is supposed to be about cultural preservation. Toward the end of last year, its in-house magazine nevertheless published a special issue on climate change. The official editorial employs the usual cliches. Catastrophic consequences. The “greatest global challenge of our times.” Blah, blah.
Hilariously, this editorial implies that, without a UN plan, the planet simply won’t survive. Earth to UNESCO: could we spend five minutes talking about how the UN has failed – tragically and comprehensively – to save Haiti?
That nation has less than 12 million people. It’s slightly smaller than the US state of Maryland. Because it comprises half of an island, its borders are well-defined. The UN has been
a significant presence there since 2004, yet Haiti remains a basket case.
After a devastating earthquake struck in 2010, rebuilding was a huge job at which the UN was spectacularly inept. But that isn’t the half of it. UN peacekeepers then infected the already traumatized local population with cholera.
The peacekeepers were from Nepal, which had just experienced a cholera outbreak. The UN took no steps to ensure its personnel weren’t carrying the disease. Nor did it establish proper sanitation at their encampment. Untreated sewage got dumped into the country’s most important river, contaminating water that was used for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
a news report from Haiti, October 2010
This triggered the worst cholera epidemic of modern times, an epidemic Haitian doctors were ill-equipped to combat since the disease had never been recorded there before.
The 10,000 deaths and decade of sickness that followed is a UN-caused calamity. But when Ban Ki-moon finally got around to apologizing for how the situation had been handled, six years after the epidemic began, he failed to take full responsibility. The UN, you see, is protected by diplomatic immunity. There’s a permanent get-of-jail-free-card in its back pocket. It can never be held truly accountable for the harm it inflicts.
Anyone who imagines the UN is capable of saving the entire planet needs to take a few days out of their life to read two books. The first is written by Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press journalist stationed in Haiti when the earthquake occurred. It’s titled: The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.
The other is called Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-up in Post-Earthquake Haiti. It tells the story of Renaud Piarroux, a French physician who was called in to investigate. Written by his medical colleague, Ralph Frerichs, it shows the UN failing one moral test after another.
Rather than receiving cooperation and assistance, Piarroux, who had led efforts to stamp out cholera elsewhere, had to battle the UN itself.
It is standard procedure in such situations to identify the source of an outbreak as quickly as possible. In this instance, officials at several UN bodies – including the World Health Organization (WHO) – insisted there were more important considerations than assigning blame. Frerichs writes:
there was an active effort to suppress any search for the origin. [p. 34]
all international officials, with no exceptions, adopted the same position, exonerating [UN] soldiers. [p.66]
The [UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] maps continued to falsify where cholera began… [p. 70]
For years the UN, aided and abetted by certain prominent experts, tried to link the outbreak to climate change:
it became apparent that there was an active effort to obfuscate the role of the Nepalese UN peacekeepers, aided by those who believed that cholera originates from climatic or environmental changes… [p 108]
There was not a single piece of evidence to support the environmental hypothesis that [cholera] had been lying dormant and then…had been upset by the January 2010 earthquake. The outbreak had occurred nine months after the earthquake! [p. 137]
On January 6, the members of the ‘independent’ UN panel were announced…The panel members were…firmly tied to the environmental theory. [pp. 160-161]
At the end of its investigation, even the UN panel had to dismiss the environmental hypothesis… [p. 182]
Overall, the UN report was a whitewash that chose not to talk about the peacekeepers, yet criticized the victims. Here are a few more quotes from the book:
How could the supposedly independent UN panel have failed to identify the humans responsible for the…outbreak? [p. 189]
the panel did not hesitate to assign some blame to Haitians and to their local public health environment. [p. 190]
Details on the source [of the cholera] were also omitted from [a WHO publication] when the scientific facts were clearly known…WHO regulations have long stipulated that ‘all information available on the origin of infection’ must be reported. [p. 194]
The UN is a massive bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are never held accountable. They’re staffed by careerists who hop from assignment to assignment, avoiding the consequences of the decisions they make about other people’s lives.
When something goes wrong, the buck gets passed here, there, and everywhere. There’s little incentive for UN personnel to acknowledge their mistakes, never mind learn from them.
The world is comprised of doers and talkers. Haiti shows us that UN personnel are good at talking and writing reports. But they’re pathetic at getting anything done in the real world.
At ground zero of a terrible natural disaster, UN personnel made things worse rather than better. They then wasted precious time denying, stonewalling, and covering up the harm they’d inflicted.
|The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-up in Post-Earthquake Haiti