The 9,200 Haitians killed and more than 800,000 seriously sickened by the UN’s grossly negligent introduction of cholera to Haiti via their peacekeeping force there, will be relieved to know from Stephen O’Brien UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs that “the UN welcomes public scrutiny.” (UN is impartial in Syria as it is elsewhere, The Guardian, 1 September 2016).
If only. Having denied its responsibilities and culpability at every turn, buried the evidence and expertise that proves liability, hidden behind its legal immunity in US courts and refused even minimal compensation to some of the poorest people on earth for six years, to Haitians, the UN does not have a humanitarian department worthy of the name.
The failure to hold itself to account or allow anyone else to do so in court means that the causes of this disaster remain unaddressed. UN medical protocols still do not require the screening and treatment of troops being deployed on peacekeeping missions (see Guardian report April 14, 2016). Woefully inadequate UN sanitation in the field remains “unsatisfactory,” as an internal UN report concluded in June 2015.
What happened in Haiti, the criminally negligent exposure of a whole population to excruciating death and debilitation will happen again, either in Haiti or elsewhere. Before it does, perhaps under-secretary-general O’Brien should ask the family of one of those dying of cholera in Haiti today if he can attend their death-bed to witness first-hand what is a truly horrific death.
The US Court of Appeals may have upheld the UN’s immunity last month but European courts, which have in the past ruled that UN immunity cannot be impunity, may be less forgiving. So please sue me. Those dead and dying as a result of the UN’s cholera epidemic in Haiti deserve nothing less than the truth. That will only finally emerge as a result of the public scrutiny under-secretary-general O’Brien welcomes.
Phillip Wearne, Haiti Support Group