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Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
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Respect for human rights: The case of the UN cholera in Haiti
On December 15, 2016, UNIFA's Masters Program in Political Science and Law hosted attorney Brian Concannon Jr. to discuss recent developments with regard to the tragic introduction of the deadly disease cholera to Haiti by UN troops.
On December 1, 2016, the UN Secretary-General put an end to 6 years of denial by promising to invest 400 million dollars in the fight against cholera in Haiti and to compensate the victims. This victory was possible thanks to a network of cholera victims, activists, health professionals, academics, journalists, political leaders, scientific filmmakers and even UN insiders, all led by a group of lawyers in Haiti and the United States. Attorney Concannon discussed how this network has been successful and how the lessons learned from the cholera case can be applied to other struggles for social justice.
Lawyer and human rights activist Brian Concannon Jr. heads the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). This institute helps Haitians to uphold the human rights they so desperately need in order to defy poverty and vulnerability. The IJDH, together with its partner organization in Haiti, the Office of International Lawyers (BAI), aims to challenge these violations before Haitian, US and international courts, train progressive Haitian lawyers, document human rights violations and work with local activists in Haiti, North America and around the world.
Mr. Concannon lived and worked in Haiti for nine years, from 1995 to 2004, first with the United Nations and in 1996 with the BAI. The BAI and IJDH launched several cases of high-impact and innovative human rights violations, including the case of the Raboteau Massacre trial in 2000 and considered one of the most prominent human rights cases in the Americas. More recently, the IJDH/BAI took legal action against the United Nations for introducing cholera in Haiti, and finally the project of responsibility and prevention of rape. See French text at http://unifa-edu.info/contenu/
Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on October 4, 2016 as a category 4 with winds of 145+ mph.
Severe damage caused by Category 4 Hurricane Matthew in the first week of October, and then followed by extensive flooding from heavy rains, caused the government of Haiti to postpone elections until November 20, 2016. In recent weeks, Haiti has been hit with cycles of very heavy rains that have caused extensive flooding (Cap Haitian, a major city in the North was under water), and these rains made reaching hurricane victims with disaster relief even more difficult as roads continued to be impossible to use.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Hurricane Matthew…resulted in the country’s largest humanitarian emergency since the 2010 earthquake. It caused extensive flooding and mudslides, damage to road infrastructure and buildings, as well as electricity and water shortages.” The hurricane caused serious damages throughout seven of Haiti’s ten departments, but the southern region and northwest areas were most impacted and thousands of families lost everything. Some reports state that the hurricane hit Haiti as a category 5 in some areas.
Haiti human rights group, National Human Rights Defense Network RNDDH, reported that “two million one hundred thousand (2,100,000) people were affected by the hurricane. Of these, one million four hundred thousand (1,400,000) are in vulnerable situations and in need of humanitarian aid and no less than one hundred seventy-five thousand five hundred and nine (175,509) people are displaced.” See The Passing of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti : RNDDH demands respect for human dignity by the Haitian Government, Political Parties, and Humanitarian Agencies, October 21 2016.
More than 175,000 people were able to stay in 307 temporary shelters but were made to vacate school buildings so schools can reopen and voting polls can be arranged for elections. Many of the voting stations were destroyed by the hurricane.
OCHA Haiti in collaboration with humanitarian partners issued a report for the period of 19-21 October 2016 as follows: 894,057 children are among the 2.1 million affected people, 112,500 children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition, 2,271 cholera cases suspected between 4-19 October alone, 806,000 people need urgent food assistance, 36 health facilities destroyed, 2.1 million affected people, 1.4 million people need humanitarian aid, 175,500 people displaced. Source: UN and [Haitian] Government.
“The situation in Haiti is catastrophic. Every disaster is a human tragedy. It also has a terrible impact on our economy. In the coming months, we will need a lot of support to help affected families get back on their feet, recover their homes and livelihood, rehabilitate roads, bridges, ports and other utilities that have collapsed, as well as rebuild health centers, schools, agricultural and other infrastructures that have been destroyed or damaged, and restore our environment,” said Romain Yves Bastien, Minister of Economy and Finance of Haiti. See World Bank Stands With Haiti and Offers Support Following Hurricane Matthew, October 7, 2016.
Cholera spiked immediately following the hurricane due to the extensive flooding. See below for statistics. See Al Jazeera coverage on cholera since the hurricane https://youtu.be/LMC9W8n_22E
Dr. Paul Farmer, of Partners in Health, who serves as the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti on Health, was asked by NPR radio if he thinks cholera could spread as a result of Hurricane Matthew. “Do you think cholera could spread more widely after the storm as a result of people drinking contaminated water?” Dr. Farmer, who manages two hospitals in Haiti, responded: “I don't want to say I'm terrified, but that'll do. You can die in hours from cholera. It's one of the true infectious disease emergencies.” He added, “There's a very wide spectrum of cholera. Sometimes it's like a bad case of diarrhea. But you can die in hours from severe cholera. You can lose up to 10 liters of fluid a day or more. In a few hours you're completely desiccated. You don't have a lot of time to replenish the fluid and electrolytes that get lost." See Dr. Paul Farmer Is 'Surprised And Upset And Humbled' After Visit To Haiti, National Public Radio, October 21, 2016.
On November 12, 2016, a 4.4 earthquake occurred in the Southern region of Haiti but felt widely, causing more fear and homelessness, and then followed by more heavy rains.
Food scarcity is of great concern throughout Haiti.
Despite these disaster conditions (60,000 earthquake victims still living in tent camps prior to Hurricane Matthew, and the new humanitaan conditions and crisis following the hurricane and several rounds of heavy rains causing massive flooding and increased homelessness and starvation) the U.S. government has restarted deporting people to Haiti after a very brief suspension following the hurricane. See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-deportations-homeland-security-haiti-hurricane-matthew-flights-immigrants-a7408426.html
Haiti: Hurricane Matthew - Situation Report No. 22 (16 November 2016)
The most recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report summarizes the immediate impact of Hurricane Matthew: