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?