The United Nations has, at long last, accepted some responsibility that it played a part in a cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in 2010 and has since killed at least 9,200 people and infected nearly a million people.
This is the first time that the UN has acknowledged that it bears a duty towards the victims. It is a significant step forward in the quest for accountability and justice.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is frequently devastated by disasters – both natural and man-made. Yet cholera was not one of its problems before 2010. Then a group of UN peacekeepers was sent to help after an earthquake.
Heavy rains in Haiti’s northern city of Cap-Haïtien flooded streets, homes and fields overnight on 9 November, leaving hundreds homeless and up to fifteen people dead. A girl walks through the flooded streets of her neighbourhood. UN Photo/Logan Abassi
Hurricane Sandy left infrastructural damage and flooding in many areas of Haiti. Tent cities have been a mainstay in Haiti since the devastating earthquake nearly three years ago, sanitation is hit and miss, and dirty standing water and raw sewage pose perpetual problems throughout the tiny island nation.
NGOs and doctors are giving out cholera kits and are asking Haitians to spread the word about how to avoid getting cholera, but with a lack of clean drinking water more people are bound to be sickened by or die because of cholera. And despite these valiant efforts the waterborne disease continues to take the lives of the very young and old primarily.
Haiti, the tiny island in the Caribbean and one of the poorest countries in the world, experienced severe infrastructure devastation and 52 deaths caused by hurricane Sandy. 200,000 people are currently homeless as a direct result of the hurricane. Still suffering from the damage of Issac earlier this summer and the earthquake from nearly three years ago, Haiti is again ripe for a devastating cholera outbreak, food shortages, and food price spikes. Crop damage, especially banana and coffee, is expected and the loss of livestock will hurt many farmers.
With all of the infrastructure damage and humanitarian efforts that are perpetually underway the Security Council recently extended the UN Haiti Mission for one year until October 15, 2013. The UN Haiti Mission creates development programs that help bring Haitians to self-sufficiency like the inland fish farm written about in September, or the recent infrastructure project that got underway in Port-au-Prince that will help rebuild streets and roadways.
Here is a telling video from the Washington Post that shows some of the devastation first hand and how those still living in the tent cities are faring.