Worst Logic of the Year, Cholera Division
Nigel Fisher, United Nations Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator, January 2012:
“As you know, more than 6,700* Haitians have succumbed to the cholera epidemic so far and almost 500,000* have been infected. If we can take any encouragement, it is that: National cholera response and alert systems are now in place in a country that had no such infrastructure before the cholera outbreak….”
The reason Haiti had no national cholera response and alert system in place was that there was no cholera. In fact there had never been a laboratory-confirmed case of cholera in Haiti, ever, until it appeared in October 2010, almost certainly introduced by United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal.
Please no one set up a national bubonic plague response system.
* As of April 2012, the official death toll is 7,091 and case load over 534,000.
Fisher made a more important statement earlier this month in an interview posted by the UN News Centre:
“As humanitarian actors facing cholera, what we are doing is sort of patchwork, band-aid work on a fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is when cholera broke in Haiti there was no experience of it and the conditions were ripe for it to spread quickly.*”
Instead, he called for:
“… a massive investment in everything, from food hygiene to water and sanitation to education. It’s long-term and we are working out the details of that.”
Those comments were cited in an editorial which ran in this morning’s Sunday New York Times, which did something Fisher still will not — put them in context of the direct responsibility Fisher’s own organization has for creating the mess in the first place:
“The United Nations bears heavy responsibility for the outbreak: its own peacekeepers introduced the disease through sewage leaks at one their encampments.”
The Times editorial cites a CDC estimate that putting in adequate water and sanitation systems will cost $800 million to $1 billion. That would exceed the Haitian government’s one-year revenues, but is commensurate with the UN peacekeeping mission’s annual budget.
Fisher quote h/t @HaitiJustice