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‘Repackaging’ Of U.N. Cholera Initiative Detracts Attention From Epidemic’s Origin

“Those following the two-year-old saga of the United Nations and cholera in Haiti were startled by” the U.N.’s announcement last week of a $2.2 billion initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, freelance journalist Jonathan Katz and Tom Murphy, editor of the development blog “A View From the Cave,” write in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Since [the crisis began in October 2010], scores of epidemiologists — including those appointed by the U.N. itself — have unearthed overwhelming evidence supporting the hypothesis that [U.N. peacekeepers] carried the disease and introduced it to Haiti through negligent sanitation,” they continue, adding, “In response, U.N. officials have ignored, dismissed, or mischaracterized it all.”

“Far from launching an ambitious new initiative, the U.N. was merely repackaging a still-unfunded, year-old effort,” they write, noting, “Buried in the U.N. press release, in a line only the Miami Herald seemed to notice, was an admission that the ‘Initiative for the Elimination of Cholera in the Island of Hispaniola’ had already been kicked off in January 2012 by the Haitian and Dominican governments with the support of a few U.N. agencies.” Katz and Murphy continue, “Shifting around aid money — making the same promises over and over without fulfilling them — is an old game in the development world. But in this case it’s especially bold.” They add, “By relaunching an existing Haitian-Dominican effort under the guise of a U.N. initiative, the world body can once again claim to be too busy saving Haitian lives to comment on how those lives were put in danger in the first place” (12/18).