With the constant slew of natural disasters barraging the globe these past few years, it should come as no surprise that Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has been one of the countries hit hardest by Natures’ wrath. This island in the center of the Caribbean has been the recipient of the likes of hurricanes, violent winds, and devastating floods. However, these calamities are not the only ones to have struck the nation – an October 2010 outbreak of Cholera (V. cholerae), following a destructive earthquake that occurred ten months prior, spread rapidly from its origin in the Artibonite region of Haiti to all other provinces.
To date, this illness has left over 8,000 dead and hundreds of thousands bed-ridden, its reach felt not only in Haiti but also in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, and even our local Florida. With such destruction left in Cholera’s wake, government support and other forms of aid are imperative – though the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) have promised to invest in combatting the disease, their influence has not been felt in Haiti, and many are attributing the gradual deterioration of health in the region to this lack of attention.
One would think that such illustrious, prominent, influential organizations would pay more attention to the crisis at hand, moreover supply more aid, more monetary funding to revive the ailing Haiti. However, the reality does not reflect these views.
For example, not only does the United Nations continue to refute the point that the origin of the V. cholerae bacteria sits with Nepalese peacekeepers originally sent to the area by the UN itself, but also appears to be ignoring the issue, Attorney General Ban Ki-Moon skirting any talk of additional aid or funding. Only recently has Ki-Moon touched upon the subject, suggesting a “new” course of action that, in fact, is not new at all; rather, it is just a restatement of promises that the UN failed to deliver, dubbed by critics as “purely aspirational.” The Attorney General’s plan encompasses the following: a $2.2 billion investment over the next ten years. Though this may sound superficially promising, in fact, the UN, due to a lack of disposable funding, has only given 1% of the total. The Pan American Health Organization underscored this fact: “The spread [of Cholera] was…blamed on the poor distribution of health supplies due to logistical problems. Furthermore, there was also a lack of access to untainted drinking water.”
The UN’s irresponsible attitude is also evident in the increased responses from the aggravated public; for example, the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, under the guidance of Brian Concannon, filed suit against the United Nations seeking reparations for Cholera victims’ families; Concannon proceeded, “If the UN plan does get implemented, it will address one of our three claims. We’re asking for three things – provision of water and sanitation necessary to control the epidemic, to stop the killing; compensation to [all victims] that have lost almost everything; an apology to make sure that this doesn’t happen again in another country.”
However, the United Nations is not the only organization at fault; critics have attributed the gradual decline in aid to a “sharp fall in donor support”, as well as (generally uncontrollable) natural disasters. Though such lack of attention is not characteristic of any single organization, it is still a deplorable fact that the world cannot harness enough funds to control the further spread of Cholera. In the words of George Santayana, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”; if organizations cannot set their priorities and focus on addressing the issue of disease in a relatively small island nation, they cannot hope to limit the spread of maladies worldwide.
- CDC website