Should UN Troops Leave Haiti?

A survey by a York College anthropologist, Prof. Mark Schuller, showed that only a minority of respondents in Port-au-Prince think the UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) troops are a “good thing” in Haiti.

In describing the results, Schuller points out that more Haitians seem to think the presence of UN troops is a bad thing, and that this is especially true among women.  He also argues that MINUSTAH troops are not helping the security situation.

The results of this sur­vey pro­vide fur­ther con­fir­ma­tion that there is lit­tle sup­port for MINUSTAH in Haiti’s cap­i­tal city. A major­ity of respon­dents wish to see MINUSTAH forces depart within a short time frame and con­sider that the UN force should be held account­able for the mas­sive human dam­age caused by the intro­duc­tion of cholera to Haiti. Fur­ther­more, only a minor­ity of respon­dents con­sid­ers that MINUSTAH helps enhance secu­rity in their neigh­bor­hoods.

Why is MINUSTAH in Haiti?  The force was created in 2004 to deliver aid and maintain security.  It was re-authorized and expanded after the January 2010 earthquake, which killed about a quarter-million Haitians.

But Nepalese MINUSTAH troops have been blamed for starting the cholera outbreak there, as Schuller alludes in the above quote.  The Nepalese left their country for Haiti in 2010 at a time when cholera had broken out in their homeland.  The strain of cholera bacteria causing illness and death in Haiti was essentially identical to the Nepalese strain.  Originally, the UN denied that the Haitian cholera strain came from Nepal, but had to reverse itself later.

(I don’t agree with the finger pointing at Nepalese troops, or the UN.  As I argued back in November 2010, cholera is a disaster that signals a lack of resources and a failure of political will.)

Another problem:  MINUSTAH troops from Uruguay and Brazil have been charged with rape and other sexual violations in Haiti.  The most recent allegations, involving sexual exploitation of minors, were leveled just last month.

What should we make of international relief efforts in Haiti, then?  The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that as NGOs leave, water quality is declining — a big issue, since the real cause of the cholera outbreak was the government’s inability to deliver clean water to the Haitian people.

If relief agencies withdraw, will Haitians get more autonomy but less safe drinking water?  And will MINUSTAH’s withdrawal, if it happens, help Haiti have the resources to provide the necessities of a healthy life to Haitian people?

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1 comment
  1. Bianca Rivera said:

    I’d hope that even if relief agencies withdraw, perhaps another group would pitch in their efforts?

    The UN General Assembly declared clean water and sanitation as a human right in July 2010. It is recognized as one of the fundamental rights toward becoming a healthier citizen. Quoting the UN declaration of this right the site states that “The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help poorer countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone” (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=35456&Cr=SANITATION). Thus, this alone makes me feel as though someone else will step in MINUSTAH’s place, as well as the fact that Millennium Development Goal 7, which is to ensure environmental sustainability, includes a clause for the access to clean drinking water. This of course would be contingent upon if UN member states have really been adhering to the declaration. I find that a big problem as of late is the withdrawal of funds due to the current economy. However, every little bit counts, so any form of funding would be beneficial for Haiti. How much aid is required in order for this declaration to be honored? Bottom line is that I am hoping indirect aid, for the lack of a better term, is more welcomed than direct aid. This way there is no need for a military presence and any of the implications that come with it, whether it be the apparent spread of disease or sexual violations.

    Perhaps then the funding can be used to model their sewage system little by little so that it resembles that of Cuba, another Caribbean country. The model is ideal since Cuba is home to one of the best water sanitation systems in the world.

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