In 2010, the UN peacekeepers living at the base in Haiti, leaked waste into a river, spreading disease — more specifically, cholera. The UN peacekeepers had been in Nepal for some time before arriving in Haiti after the infamous 2010 earthquake. Prior to their arrival, Haiti had gone a century without having to deal with the emergence of the epidemic. Since their arrival, however, over 8,000 deaths and about 700,000 cholera cases have been reported.
The peacekeepers were in Haiti as part of what’s been dubbed the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). This was an initiative that the UN Security Council put into place back in 2004. Back then, Haiti was dealing with tension surrounding requests for reparations from France. In addition, there was a coup d’état that tipped the already-delicate political and social landscape of Haiti. Haiti’s political instability was only aggravated by the 2010 earthquake and by the deaths of thousands due to a cholera outbreak that was caused by people who should’ve been there to help. It was hoped the UN’s initiative would remedy this instability, help foster sustainable disarmament, support and rebuild the political process, and promote the adherence to human rights of the country by law officials — but this does not seem to have been the case.
The UN claims they ended the initiative on October 15th of this year, on the grounds of having succeeded in its mission. There’s one caveat though — it’s being replaced by a different, smaller initiative by the name of UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).
However, the UN did not replace the program because it was successful, but rather replaced it to convey the illusion of progress. The UN ended the project to boost morale and create the illusion of progress because the mission was taking too long.The ends of projects like the MINUSTAH tend to symbolize advancement and new beginnings. They are meant to be hopeful. This is not ill-intentioned, but false hope can be dangerous. The UN should not receive credit for doing very little.
The UN first responded with silence, then defensiveness. They never admitted to being directly at fault for the outbreak, even following the release of a study that clearly showed they were. The little blame they did take only happened under pressure of some US officials.
Little has been reported regarding what the UN has been doing in Haiti. Sandra Honoré claims that “Haiti is now in a position to move forward and consolidate the stability that has been obtained, as a framework for continued social and economic development.” However, there is little evidence of that. The website also mentions the relationship between Haitian people and UN officials on the ground. It is described only as “positive.” There is no data to support this claim. Aside from the personal anecdote given by Sandra Honoré, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the true state of UN-Haitian relations on the ground is unknown.
The UN should take more responsibility for issues they cause. To come to a country, make it worse, and then claim responsibility for making it better is disingenuous and misleading. Transparency is key with missions like these. The UN needs to provide hard data to justify such a dramatic decrease of presence. Instead, though, it is likely they will provide more positive bureaucratic drivel.