Haitians are getting sick (of waiting)

Haitians are getting sick (of waiting)

People are taking to the streets in the Haitian city of Saint Marc to protest the construction of a cholera clinic by Doctors Without Borders. Around 300 students and other people gathered to complain (and throw rocks), voicing fears that the clinic would bring more of the disease into the area. More than 280 people have died from cholera so far in the recent outbreak, according to U.N. figures.

Presumably, a well-regarded aid organization like Doctors Without Borders knows what it is doing and wouldn’t contribute to the spread of cholera in Haiti by misplacing a medical clinic. As the Al Jazeera correspondent in Port au Prince said, the anger is primarily due to a lack of public education about the disease. That may be true, but I think there are probably other issues here. Haitians’ suspicions of the clinic might have as much to do with their general condition as it does with the building itself.

It was more than nine months ago that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, killing a quarter of a million people, leveling the capital, and setting back the country’s infrastructure and economic development for years. More than 100 countries pledged about $15 billion to repair Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. But so far Haitians have seen little improvement in their conditions. There are still 1.3 million people living in displaced persons camps, where hunger, rape, malnutrition, and now cholera are common. So far only $300 million of the $1.15 billion the United States appropriated to Haiti has reached the country.

Earlier this month Haitian protesters blocked off the area around the U.N. military installation in Port au Prince and carried banners that said "Down With the Occupation." In Mirabelais people are protesting that Nepalese U.N. forces nearby are contaminating the river with sewage. As long as reconstruction continues at such a slow pace, Haitians won’t see the U.N. forces and international organizations as there to help. Some of that anger might even be taken out against much-needed medical clinics.