Haiti Support Group Letter to the Guardian on UN & Cholera


Haiti Support Group Letter to the Guardian on UN & Cholera

The following letter was written by Phillip Wearne of the Haiti Support Group in response to Ian Birrell’s article

4 March 2013

Dear Editor,

One hates to add to the litany of moral hypocrisy and criminal neglect detailed by Ian Birrell (Is the UN the conscience of the world? Not in Haiti, 4 March), but actually it is even worse that he describes. UN “peacekeepers” actually arrived in Haiti in 2004 (not 2010) to subdue the opposition to the overthrow of a democratically-elected government not to western powers’ taste and have been there effectively enforcing the will of foreigners who have trying to control Haiti by one means or another since Haitians had the temerity to change the course of world history between 1791 and 1804 and free themselves from both slavery and colonal rule simultaneously.

As regards cholera, your readers may care to the note that the UN’s own panel of experts Birrell mentions actually made some very basic medical protocol recommendations on preventing the possibility of a recurrence of this disaster. In doing so, they clearly demonstrated, what, as well as who, they thought was to blame for the epidemic. The Nepalese troops deployed to the NEPBATT 1 base in Meille, near Mirebalais in Haiti in October 2010, where their raw sewage was allowed to run into a tributory of Haiti’s most vital river had, incredibly, not even been tested, let alone treated, for cholera before departure from Katmandu. UN medical protocols did not require it, despite the fact that, in the months preceeding, the UN had repeatedly warned of Haiti’s vulnerability to such epidemics. Twenty-two months after this recommendation was made by the UN’s own experts, the UN’s medical protocols for such deployments still do not require testing, treatment and vaccination.

The fact remains that the UN is as negligent in private in not making such basic, common sense, medical changes as it is in rejecting in public the compensation claims by the victims of its own epidemic. Such changes in medical protocols would cost the UN nothing, could be made tomorrow and would prevent any other nation suffering as Haiti has for the past 30 months. Without such changes public health experts have been united in warning that with increasing numbers of troops from the developing world being deployed to the developing world, often in circumstances of war or natural disaster ripe for epidemics, what has happened in Haiti will happen again elsewhere.

For Haitians, the irony is even deeper than Birrell chronicles. The UN has rejected the claim for compensation (and an apology) for the victims of this cholera epidemic and their families on the basis of the Convention on the Priviledges and Immunities of the United Nations. In the past courts have repeatedly upheld the UN’s immunity on the grounds that the UN must be protected from lawsuits that prevent it from executing its “protection duties.” In other words, for the UN and its employees to be protected, Haitians, and doubtless others in future, must die and be damaged with impunity.

Phillip Wearne
Haiti Support Group (HSG)

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