Independent Media Centre Ireland

Cholera outbreak in Haiti: Nobody's fault?

category international | miscellaneous | opinion/analysis author Wednesday November 17, 2010 18:43author by Diarmuid Breatnach - Haiti Solidarity Ireland

The West have bled the Haitian until she collapsed and now cannot even give her clean water.

It is so sad to read of a cholera outbreak among the survivors of the Haitian earthquake disaster -- .according to news reports, over 14,600 people are hospitalised through this outbreak and it has killed around. And recently floods in some areas too. One wonders what more suffering those people can endure.

But if we ask why these people are having to suffer like this, our sorrow must surely turn to anger. Transmission of cholera is primarily through the ingestion of contaminated drinking water or food and reports from doctors at the scene blame the water. Indeed, even the water bags marked "purified" being distributed may be contaminated, according to Gabriel Thimote, the director general of Haiti's health department. "May be"? Can he not have the water tested? Can he not ensure that properly-treated water, a fundamental necessity, is given to the people of his country?

According to Al Jazeera news service, there are also fears that the disease will break out "in the temporary camps where about 1.3 million of the survicors of January's devastating earthquake live, with no municipal services, health clinics or schools.” The Guardian comments that "Haiti's cholera epidemic may last for years. Zimbabwe had a major outbreak in 2008 that is still not over and has spread to neighbouring countries. By the beginning of this year, there had been nearly 99,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths"

How is it that the Haitian people who had so many teams of medical and rescue experts attend and who were reportedly sent so much aid still live in these conditions many months after the disaster?

Some statistics may help to provide the answer to that question. Only 1.9% of the $5,300,000,000 pledged to reconstruction at the March UN conference has been paid. The US, the richest state in the world, pledged €1 for every two pledged by Venezuela. However the private prison group GEO got a contract from the US Government in the month after the earthquake worth $260,589.

The French government pledged, through UN agencies, NGOs and the Red Cross, $180 million but not one dollar of this has been delivered. Through other channels, French humanitarian assistance to Haiti since the earthquake is just over $35,956,400. That looks good until we learn that over the years Haiti has been paying France compensation for having freed its slaves in rebellion and declared independence, for “liberté, egalité et fraternité”, an estimated $40,000,000,000.

Not all of Haiti’s ills come from Europe and the US: 0.5 % of Haiti's population, the ruling oligarchy, own 98% of Haiti's wealth while the vast majority lived in dire poverty long before any earthquake. But even then, the rich make that wealth through foreign monopoly subsidiaries or corporations supported by Western government. They maintain themselves in power through corruption, repression and intimidation including systematic rape. Those who try to escape to the US, for example, are treated as illegal immigrants (in contrast to those escaping Cuba, a country with vastly superior general standard of living, healthcare and education: they are granted political asylum). And when, incredibly, the Haitans defy all this to vote for a change, their legally-elected government is overthrown in a military coup supported by the West (especially France and the US).

But Haitans were capable of at least feeding themselves on rice and in 1985 were consuming 22 sacks of home-grown rice for every one imported from the US. However, by 2000, five years after the IMF restructured their economy to reduce tariffs on imported rice, they were consuming 2 bags of US rice for every one of their own. This of course led to huge rural unemployment. And where did all those agricultural workers go – to the slums of the cities and towns, of course, to add to the poverty, drug addiction and prostitution there. However, it’s not bad news for American Rice Inc., which currently has a contract with USAID to the value of $126,000,000.

Perhaps the NGOs can at least make a difference? Apparently not, although Haiti has more of them per capita than any other nation on earth.

While Venezuela’s offer of help was initally refused, as was Cuba’s offer to set up a public health service and train the medical staff (their doctors were first on the scene after the earthquake), the regime continues to be ineffectual in assistance and the international aid provision and teams are incapable of providing uncontaminated drinking water and adequate shelter. Meanwhile, a million and-a-half Haitians are estimated still homeless after the earthquake and 232,130 are without even tents or tarpaulins for shelter.

The West have bled the Haitian until she collapsed and now cannot even give her clean water.

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