Notes on a Scandal | Issue 19

Notes on a Scandal | Issue 19

Fuckwits in the time of cholera

I have a friend who has done some work for the UN. Despite never having been employed by anyone even remotely worthy of mention, I nevertheless like to pipe up when she mentions it, usually in the form of a snobby comment along the lines of: “But how can you sleep at night knowing you’ve sold your soul to the most bureaucratised mutual wank-fest on the planet?” If I’m feeling particularly… left-wing… I’ll launch into a tirade along the lines of the following:

Following Haiti’s earthquake in 2010, the country was flooded with humanitarian workers, all meant to being doing no harm and some good. What ended up happening is that UN peacekeepers from Nepal introduced cholera to Haiti for the first time in over 100 years. The epidemic has killed 7,442 and sickened 580,974. This year over 200,000 more people can expect to be infected by not one but two strains of cholera that have now evolved in Haiti.

Saying someone “introduced cholera” is a nice way of saying some fuckwit shat in the water supply that ran through one of the tent cities thousands of Haitians now call home posto quako. Initially Doctors Without Borders and the Cuban medical brigades were dealing with over 80% of cases, despite the fact that Haiti had more humanitarian workers than any other country at that time. The UN first refused to acknowledge there was an epidemic and then refused to acknowledge it was its own fault.

A vaccination programme has been introduced this year – although not by the UN, I hasten to add. World health authorities initially opposed it, supposedly worried about cost, safety, and the possibility that Haitians might not understand the concept of a vaccine. Then the Haitian government refused it, worried people might not vote it back in if they had to pick and choose who would be part of the “pilot project”. The oral vaccine now approved is the cheapest on the market and will be given to all of 1% of the population.

Needless to say, this is not enough. Even the US recognises this: last month, 104 members of the House of Representatives have managed to rise above their usual pathological narcissism long enough to send a letter to the American ambassador to the UN, asking her to pressure the organisation into doing more to solve the problem it created. This entails providing clean water and basic sanitation, i.e. human rights you and I take for granted. On that note, I promise this is going to be the last toilet-related column for a while, lest a trend emerges that would be worrisome if one were a Freudian.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2012.
Posted 4:49pm Sunday 5th August 2012 by Brittany Mann.