By Wayne Madsen
August 9, 2012
WASHINGTON — EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, “Should the United States insist the United Nations move to end Haiti’s cholera epidemic?”
The United Nations wastes billions of dollars every year on what its apologists cynically call “humanitarian efforts.” The most egregious of these—unfortunately for a world in turmoil—are its far-flung peacekeeping missions, which often do great harm and seldom do much good.
The most glaring case of this—which inexplicably has received scant media attention—is in Haiti where U.N. peacekeeping troops introduced the plague of cholera in 2010 and have done almost nothing to combat it since.
Officials acknowledge that more than 7,445 Haitians have died and as many as 600,000 Haitians have contracted the dread disease, which infects the intestines and causes diarrhea so acute it can kill even a healthy adult in a matter of hours.
The actual number of dead may be much larger because so many Haitians remain in poorly organized tent cities where accurate head counts are few and far between. By some estimates the death toll already has topped 10,000 and, under the circumstances, even that estimate probably falls far short of the actual total.
Despite its squalid poverty, Haiti had not recorded a case of cholera in 50 years until hundreds of Nepalese peacekeeping troops began arriving in early October of 2010. Although Nepal was in the grip of a major cholera epidemic at the time none of those troops had been tested for the disease.
In December 2010, Nepali Brig. Gen. Dr. Kishore Rana told the BBC that the U.N. did not require such a test unless a soldier had clearly visible cholera symptoms.
A 37-page complaint filed by Haiti’s Institute of Democracy charges the epidemic there began when the new Nepalese troops established a base on the banks of the Artibonite River, directly downriver from the small village of Meille. The river, the nation’s largest, serves as a prime source of drinking water.
With hours of the base’s establishment, many people in Meille became ill—all with an unknown intestinal disease later identified as cholera. Within weeks dozens had died.
A study published later by the respected British medical journal Lancet, found that all the evidence pointed to the presence of Nepalese U.N. troops.
“There was an exact correlation in time and places between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in Meille a few days after,” said the study by renowned French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux.
“The remoteness of Meille in central Haiti and the absence of report of other incomers make it unlikely that a cholera strain might have been brought there another way.”
Those who now call for the U.S.—and particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—to exert strong pressure on the U.N. to clean up a mess of its own making are indulging in pipe dreams.
Some skeptics believe the president’s advisers have no interest in shining a media spotlight on the horrendous plight of Haiti’s nearly 10 million blacks as this fall’s election approaches.
Rather than prod the ineffectual U.N. to take more forceful action, the U.S. should push for an immediate withdrawal of the body’s blue-helmeted peacekeepers from Haiti and their replacement with teams of expert volunteers—physicians, public health workers and urban planners—from caring rich nations like Norway, Kuwait, Austria, Australia and Canada.
Dividing Haiti into sectors, each country’s team could take one sector and coordinate efforts to quash cholera with the construction of viable new housing, fresh water plants, schools and clinics.
Such a project, with nations competing with each other for the good of humanity, might well establish Haiti as a global showcase for an emerging democracy
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to www.onlinejournal.com. Readers may write to him at National Press Club front desk, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.