Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

The U.N.’s Inadequate Response to the Haiti Cholera Outbreak

Originally published in Harvard Political Review

Andre Ferreira

March 6, 2020

Excerpt below:

In 1945, much of Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa, lay in ruins. Countries faced severe economic strife in an attempt to rebuild what was lost. The war led to the deaths of over 80 million people, a staggering toll of military and civilian lives. In the midst of all this suffering, the end of World War II would signify the beginning of an era towards maintaining international security and peace through international cooperation.

Thus, 51 nations gathered to sign a Charter that would become the founding document of the United Nations, a multinational organization intended to give humanitarian assistance and promote global development. The U.N. strives to build a better world “guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter” by promoting democracy and international law, and by protecting human rights.

However, despite the U.N.’s “devotion” to tackling the international concerns that countries face in the 21st century, from sustainable development to confronting humanitarian and health emergencies, its most recent history may tell us a different story.

Cholera’s Emergence in Haiti: A Devastating Story 

The year is 2010. In Haiti, the month of October of that year will go down in infamy.

In the small village of Meille, located in Haiti’s central plateau, a young man by the name of Rosemond Lorimé lived a simple life. His day consisted of helping the older folk raise pigs and turkeys, plant cassava, or swim in a nearby river. This simple life would all change, however, when a fatal disease swept through the nation.

Nine months after an earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, Rosemond found his life turned upside down when the first of his family fell ill: his father. It began with a pain that radiated in his stomach, followed by vomiting and diarrhea that left him severely dehydrated. That illness would soon spread to the rest of the family, leaving everyone in the household in quite critical conditions. His father’s sickness was the most intense, and he would eventually pass away from the disease. Rosemond not only lost a beloved member of the family but his father’s death also meant the loss of their breadwinner.

Rosemond’s is but one story depicting the infectious epidemic that lay waste to the country of Haiti and its people. It began with an intense pain in the stomach, radiating through the entire body, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. The sickness quickly took its toll until death by dehydration. This often fatal and infectious disease would affectthousands and become the disastrous epidemic that would change the course of the nation. Its name: cholera.

Despite the country’s extreme poverty and the destructive earthquake that lay waste to Haiti in January of that same year, Haiti was free of a cholera epidemic for about a century prior to the arrival of the U.N. peacekeeping force. These circumstances beg the question: What exactly was the source of the outbreak?


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