Two Years Later, Haitians Are Worse Off Due to Cholera, Lack of Accountability, CEPR Co-Director Says

For Immediate Release

Two Years Later, Haitians Are Worse Off Due to Cholera, Lack of Accountability, CEPR Co-Director Says

WASHINGTON - Two years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the dire conditions in which a majority of Haitians live have failed to improve and in many cases have deteriorated, due to a consistent lack of progress in the relief and reconstruction efforts and the ongoing cholera epidemic, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot noted that a general lack of accountability of international agencies and aid organizations has hindered efforts by Haitians to obtain justice and a better standard of living, particularly for those who lost their homes during the earthquake.

“It is hard to see how the situation today is any better than a year ago,” Weisbrot said. “In many areas, such as provision of sanitation facilities and housing to internally displaced persons (IDPs), there has been very little improvement. Meanwhile, the cholera epidemic has infected hundreds of thousands more Haitians during the past year, and killed thousands, with no end yet in sight.”

A year ago, 3,400 people had died from cholera, and some 171,300 been infected. By the start of 2012, some 7,000 had died, and over 520,000 been infected.

“People’s lives continue to be endangered, and justice denied, because of UN negligence, and the UN’s refusal to take responsibility,” Weisbrot added.

Numerous scientific studies have found a clear link between the cholera strain in Haiti and UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) troops stationed at a base in Mirebalais, near the Meille River, where the outbreak began. Petitions for damages from the UN have been filed by U.S., Haitian, and Brazilian-based [PDF] organizations on behalf of thousands of cholera victims.

Weisbrot noted that a recent report [PDF] from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime found that Haiti has a low murder rate – just 6.9 per 100,000 people (which is the global average) - especially compared with other countries in the region where the rate is several times as high.

“Haiti’s low murder rate undermines the concept that Haiti is an unstable, violent and chaotic place, in need of outside intervention,” Weisbrot said. “Funds spent to keep foreign troops in Haiti could instead be used for a variety of urgent humanitarian needs, including cholera treatment and prevention, and providing adequate sanitation.”

The current budget for MINUSTAH, according to the Mission’s website, is eight times the UN’s cholera appeal (109 million dollars).  “With at least 50% of the rubble resulting from the earthquake still waiting to be removed, and with hundreds of thousands of homes Haitians still living in squalid tent camps with little or no access to clean water, sanitation and health care, it is critical that the international community reconsider its priorities in Haiti,” said Weisbrot.  

Mark Weisbrot and CEPR Research Assistant Jake Johnston have contributed a chapter to the newly released book, Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake, published by Kumarian Press, and edited by Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales.

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The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

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