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.
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.
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