It always seems like the Caribbean nation of Haiti just can’t catch a break. Throughout its history, Haiti has suffered from extreme poverty, corrupt governments, and not to mention catastrophic natural disasters, such as the 2011 earthquake which cost more than 200,000 Haitians their lives.

As if that were not enough, more devastation struck the island nation when a cholera outbreak occurred in October 2010. It has fueled a continuing epidemic, resulting in the deaths of over 8,300 people and the serious illness of 650,000 people, or one out of every 16 Haitians.

The United Nations (UN) is being blamed for causing the outbreak due to the unsanitary conditions at the UN peacekeeping bases. UN peacekeepers were sent to Haiti after their work in Nepal, where cholera is pervasive. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease was  most likely transmitted then to Haiti for the first time in 200 years.

Despite the negativity that seems to surround Haiti at all times, there may be a glimmer of hope. Human rights lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the UN seeking to sue the organization in the form of a compensation claim. The lawyers and Haitian families demand that the UN pays billions of dollars in damages to survivors and the families of those killed by the cholera epidemic.

The claims have been set by a Boston-based activist group of lawyers consisting of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and its Haitian partner firm Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) located in Florida.

The UN has responded by claiming their legal immunity from compensation claims and has therefore rejected the lawsuit and claims made by Haitians affected by the epidemic. However, according to a recent article by The Guardian, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement saying that she stands “…by the call that victims of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation.”

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently launched a $2.2 billion initiative to combat cholera in Haiti over the next 10 years. Additionally, on October 10, the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the MINUSTAH’s stay in the country one more year, with the peacekeepers formally leaving in October 2014 after 10 years of work in Haiti.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: MINUSTAH, UN News Centre, The Guardian: UN Sued Haiti Cholera Epidemic, The Guardian
Photo: The Wall Street Journal

In 2003, Liberia finally came out of a thirteen-year long civil war that ravaged the country and left the inhabitants riddled with poverty. Right after the end of the war, the unemployment rate was listed at 85 percent of the population. The populations in the slums skyrocketed and the people living there were left with little choice of where to obtain water or where to use the bathroom. During the war, rebels destroyed much, if not all, of the water and sanitation infrastructure the country once had. A decade later, much of the population is still impoverished and lacking access to the basic needs of potable water and a sanitary living area. In 2010, there were almost 4 million people living in Liberia, over 1 million of which were rural poor. However, there is a stress for clean water in slums, from where a number of people from rural areas fled to Monrovia during the fighting and violence in an attempt to find refuge. For every four people, there is one living without access to clean water and sanitation in Liberia, and for every five deaths in the country, one is a result of contaminated water sources. In fact, in 2012, the World Health Organization discovered that E. coli was present in 58 percent of the city’s water due to public defecation. This spreads illness such as diarrhea and perpetuates the issue, creating a cycle of illness through dirty water. Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has pledged to double the amount of access to safe water in four years, but has clearly fallen short of this claim. Phillip Marcelo of Rhode Island’s Providence Journal is spending two weeks in Liberia this month to investigate what progress has been made since the end of the war and the installation of democracy within the country. He notes that at the entry to the slums at West Point Beach, there is a massive pile of trash marking the place. The defecation of children is all over the beach and people are being forced to buy their water from “distributors.” While adults have been banned from using the beach as a bathroom and there are pay toilets in the slum, there is often still no other option. Because of this, the spread of cholera is common along with other water-borne diseases. The government is opening up nine new toilets for the area, but the inhabitants are not sure a real difference can be made considering there are more than 50,000 people living the area. Aid groups are investing time and money into providing Liberia with better access to clean water, with the hope that this will cease to be an issue in the coming years, if not in time to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Non-profit organization Waves for Water has raised $15,100 towards the goal of $25,000 to help provide clean water filters for over 60,000 people living in poverty in Liberia. WaterAid, another NGO, also works in Liberia and happens to be an organization for which President Sirleaf is an ambassador. Last year, they were able to reach 17,000 people and provided them with clean water or sanitation facilities. Help for Liberians is out there and there are solutions to the present issues, but it will take a while to recover completely from the devastation of the war. Simply put, it is going to take plenty of hard work and a revamp of the entire infrastructure of the country in order to change the conditions of those living in the slums of Liberia. – Chelsea Evans Sources: Providence Journal, Rural Poverty Portal, Waves for Water, PBS, WaterAid Photo: Sanitations Update [hr top]

  • $30 billion per year is needed to end world hunger.

  • $660 billion per year is the amount Congress spends on Defense.


Haiti's Plan to Eliminate CholeraThe World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to help the Haitian government in its fight against cholera. The Haitian government has proposed a plan that would require an estimated $2.2 billion in investment over the next ten years to eliminate cholera.

The recent cholera outbreak can be traced back, to a large extent, to the 2010 earthquake that toppled buildings, destroyed infrastructure, and killed more than 250,000. The devastation also ruined irrigation systems, wells, sanitary plumbing, and sewers. Those damages to water security and cleanliness are thought to have contributed to the recent spread of cholera that the country has been experiencing.

Haiti’s plan will focus on repairing sanitation and providing greater access to clean water as well as rebuilding other water facilities. Before 2010 Haiti was reported to have the lowest rate of sanitation coverage in the Americas. A true sign of promise for this program is that it has been designed by the Haitian government and they are reaching out so openly to the international community. As previous programs around the world have shown, local ownership is a huge factor in the success of any aid program and Haiti’s ownership and openness are both good omens for their National Plan to Eliminate Cholera in Haiti.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: SKYN Vibes, The Telegraph

Flooding Disaster in MozambiqueThe nation of Mozambique experienced one of the worst floods in recent history due to extremely high amounts of rainfall throughout the month of January. Flooding in Mozambique damaged the province of Gaza. Over 250,000 have been affected by the floods, with 150,000 people forced out of their homes in the province and over 100 killed.

While the victims of flooding in Mozambique are dealing with destroyed homes and families, the natural disaster has been exacerbated by the outbreak of cholera. There have been over 250 cases so far, fortunately, no cases have proved fatal. Mozambique has experienced problems with cholera for years, so their response has been effective thus far. However, the potential for more flooding means that they must remain vigilant.

The complete rebuilding effort is estimated to cost over $30 million, according to The Humanitarian Country Team in Mozambique, an organization comprised of NGO and UN officials. UNICEF itself seeks $6.8 million from this fund to pay for projects to improve the welfare of children and those around them, like building clean water pumps and constructing new homes.

According to Jesper Morch of UNICEF, “emergency supplies and funding has been depleted…we urgently need additional funds if we are to help many children and families recover.”

Jake Simon

Sources: news24, UNICEF, Al Jazeera
Photo: Times Live

UN Refuses to Compensate Haitian Cholera Victims
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there is no evidence that anyone in Haiti had ever gotten cholera before 2010. However, since the outbreak began that year, almost half a million Haitians have gotten the disease, and nearly 8,000 have been killed by it.

Cholera is a horrible disease with a surprisingly simple treatment. Victims suffer from extreme diarrhea, but if they are constantly supplied with oral re-hydration in order to replace lost water and electrolytes, they will almost always survive. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure and a lack of water sanitation systems has resulted in many Haitians not getting the treatment they need.

As a result of these deaths, the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti has filed a claim against the UN, stating that evidence demonstrates that the UN was responsible for the outbreak in the first place. Allegedly, UN troops from Nepal were carrying the disease as they were sent to Haiti to assist after the 2010 Earthquake.

On Thursday, February 21, 2013, the UN rejected the Institute’s claim on the basis of diplomatic immunity. Although there are many efforts at the international level to eradicate the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the U.N.’s official decision states that “the claims are ‘not receivable’ because they concern ‘a review of political and policy matters.'” As the UN refuses to compensate Haitian cholera victims, thousands more may suffer until enough money can be raised to implement Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s plan for eradicating cholera in the region.

Jake Simon

Source: U.S. News
Photo: The Guardian