March 13, 2014 11:24 AM   Subscribe

"The only way to end Haiti’s cholera epidemic is to keep infected waste out of food and water. A subterranean network of pipes, pumping stations, and waste-treatment plants would be the ideal solution, but Haiti’s successive governments have had too little money, power, or will to build massive public works on their own.... International donors have been little help: in one case, the U.S. government, to protest the way an election was conducted, withheld funds to build water and sanitation infrastructure in northern Haiti for more than ten years. From 1990 to 2008, the proportion of Haitians with access to basic sanitation decreased from 26% to 17%. Cholera broke out in 2010. Four years into the epidemic, a trip to the bathroom for most Haitians still means looking for an open field or wading into a public canal at dawn. Those who can afford to, dig cesspools under outhouses. When the cesspools get full, it’s time to call a man like Leon." posted by zarq (11 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The importance of and shame about night soil collection is critical. In a fair world those guys would earn millions.

But in a fair world the poor in Haiti wouldn't be paying more than the rich for worse access to water and sanitation in the first place.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:32 AM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Haitians launch new lawsuit against UN over thousands of cholera deaths

Plaintiffs hold UN responsible for outbreak of disease, which they say was carried into Haiti by peacekeepers from Nepal

Haiti cholera outbreak 'came from UN base'

posted by infini at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

infini: "Haitians launch new lawsuit against UN over thousands of cholera deaths"

Let's assume the plaintiffs win. Who would be responsible for holding the UN accountable?
posted by zarq at 11:53 AM on March 13, 2014

The UN may have brought and helped spread the disease, but it is Haiti's poor infrastructure and lack of governance capacity that turns it into a serious problem.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:56 AM on March 13, 2014

Who would be responsible for holding the UN accountable?
UN staff member here. I have no idea about the specifics in Haïti, but generally the UN concludes socalled "host agreements" with the governments of the nations in which it is active. Typically, one part of that host agreement is wide-ranging diplomatic and juridical immunities (though individual staff members are still subject to the laws of the host country) that leaves the UN outside the normal purview of the legal system. It follows that the host country can hold the UN accountable only to the limits laid down in the host agreement.

(I think. I'm an IT guy and have nothing to do with this stuff in my day-to-day work.)
posted by brokkr at 12:24 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks brokkr.
posted by zarq at 12:27 PM on March 13, 2014

I love that the Katz Foreign Policy article mentions (shames?) non-specialists meddling in complex health-related matters by curtly bringing up that Sean Penn tried to get everyone panicking about an implausible diptheria outbreak.

This epidemiologist says: inconceivably wealthy, untrained folks? If you want to help, maybe lend your sympathies, or perhaps your Twitter followers' ears or possibly even a pittance of your bank account to whichever faction of the response queue you most fancy. But please, pretty please, never ever monopolize column inches with your guesswork on matters for which other people should be consulted. If given the opportunity, ask someone nearby for help. Don't be the next Jenny McCarthy, et alia.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:35 PM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seems the political obstruction (NYT, 2008) turned the country into a choleric time bomb which blew up in 2010 (Other Worlds).

...and the problem continues... (The Guardian, 3/11/2014).

[derail but: check Hatian Resistance Artists]

posted by bird internet at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2014

I have many friends from both the professional disaster relief community and volunteer community who I met, worked and lived with in post-Katrina Louisiana that went on to work in Haiti - all of them extremely motivated - who would strongly object to the notion that the Hatian government has "..too little money, power....".

Their experience is that the government has too little money and way too much power. Corruption is rampant.
posted by vapidave at 3:53 PM on March 13, 2014

Those familiar with history will recall that Haiti [after the Hawaiian Kingdom] has been occupied by the USG longer than any other country. The present situation in Haiti isn't a 'bug' but rather a feature of USG policy. Some disasters don't happen by accident. One is left wondering if sound policy is to stay away from natural disasters in order to avoid making them human disasters.
posted by SteveLaudig at 5:49 PM on March 13, 2014

From a historical POV the bigger question, I think, is how to end Haiti's US epidemic.

Like, say, 1914 when NY banker Roger Leslie Farnham departed Haiti with 24,000 ounces of Haiti's gold on a military ship headed for NY.

All the excuses made in the intervening 100 years are just that.
posted by Twang at 8:20 PM on March 13, 2014

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