After earthquakes, hurricanes, and United Nations sex rings have ravaged Haiti, it might be fair to call the locale a hell on earth. In the aftermath of the massive 2010 earthquake, the UN further deteriorated the situation by introducing cholera to the poverty stricken nation. Six years would pass before the U.N. admitted its role in bringing the infection to Haiti.

In the intervening years, thousands of Haitians died from the infection that spread uncontrollably through lack of infrastructure and poor medical treatment. While shockingly little was done by the United Nations in response to the disaster, the tragedy allowed micro-lenders and re-insurers to quickly move in, profiting where critics say aid organizations should have provided help.

The United Nations dispatched peacekeepers to aid the recovery process after a severe earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. Unfortunately the peacekeepers added to the Haitian death toll after introducing cholera to the already devastated environment, apparently brought over by UN peacekeepers from Nepal. It was not until 2016 that the UN finally admitted responsibility for the outbreak. Cholera was not the only plague brought to Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers. As previously reported by Disobedient Media, peacekeepers were revealed to have also been operating a Haitian sex ring in the country from 2004 to 2007.

Bill Clinton was appointed as the United Nation’s special envoy to Haiti at the time of the cholera outbreak, but immediately focused on helping negotiate the release of child trafficker Laura Silsby and her co-defendants before giving attention to Haiti’s plethora of other issues.

Just over ten thousand Haitians are officially reported to have died as a result of the cholera epidemic. However, a study conducted by Doctors Without Borders estimated that this figure may represent a vast underestimation of the death toll. The New York Times reported the results “could multiply the known death toll by roughly a factor of three, at least in the first six months of the epidemic, when it was most intense.” Many of those who died never made it to hospitals, where official counts of the dead were made.

Seven years after it was introduced, cholera is still endemic in Haiti. The United Nations has provided no financial reparations to the victims of the illness and their families. Haitian cholera victims have sued the United Nations in hoped of achieving some compensation; so far the absolute diplomatic immunity of the UN has been upheld.

NPR reported that victims want the U.N. to end cholera by installing a national water and sanitation system; paying reparations to cholera victims and their families and publicly apologizing for bringing cholera to Haiti.

A demonstrator holds up a sign that reads in Creole “Cholera of U.N. is a crime against humanity” during a protest against the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

U.N. officials’ were cited as fearing that if the Haitian plaintiffs succeed in piercing the agency’s cloak of immunity, it would open the way to unlimited lawsuits seeking compensation for acts of the U.N. or the 150,000 peacekeeping forces it sends out into the world each year.

The UN’s reticence to aid Haitian cholera victims contradicts its central platform promising to uphold human rights. While the country still lacks proper sanitary conditions and medical care, CNN reported that the World Health Organization planned to sending one million doses of cholera vaccine to Haiti, adding that there were still: “770 new cases per week in 2016.”

Less than a year after the cholera outbreak, microfinancers and re-insurers including Swiss Re, Fonkoze, Mercy Corp partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative to create the Microinsurance Catastrophe Risk Organization (MiCRO). At this time Haiti still lacked basic sanitation. Mercy Corp is Chaired by Linda A. Mason, who also co-founded Bright Horizons, a large child care organization that has previously operated in Haiti with Mercy Corp.

Disobedient Media has previously reported on Swiss Re’s involvement with a land grabbing scandal targeting impoverished farmers in Brazil. The report highlighted close financial ties that Swiss Re had to investors George Soros and Warren Buffet. The George Soros Foundation is a major investor in Leapfrog Investments, a private equity firm. Other investors in Leapfrog Investments include the European Investment Bank, JP Morgan, Prudential Financial, Metlife, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and most significantly the TIAA and Swiss Re. Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. also sank billions into Swiss Re in 2009. Buffet has since offloaded a portion of his stake in Swiss Re in 2015, ending a five year long tenure as the reinsurance group’s largest investor.

On the surface, it appeared that microfinance would benefit Haitians. However, re-insurance and microfinance are for-profit business models, not to be conflated with the work of aid groups. According to an article published by the Standford Social Innovation Review, “in some instances microcredit makes life at the bottom of the pyramid worse… in contrast to nonprofit organizations, commercial banks that make microloans typically provide only financial services.

Indonesia’s Bank Rakyat, Ecuador’s Bank Pichincha, and Brazil’s Unibanco all directly target poor customers.” The apparent inability of microfinance to improve the lives of the impoverished it targets has led to detractors denouncing it as a means of de-facto economic enslavement.

The presence of microfinancing groups in Haiti as the UN failed to intervene during the Cholera outbreak raises questions in regards to profits these groups may have made in the wake of disasters, be they natural or man-made.

In 2012, the Huffington Post cited critics who speculated that cholera had introduced a profit motive for international reinsurers and asked why Haitians should pay for cholera insurance when the United Nations has yet to make reparations for a disease it introduced to a country that had never before experienced this strain of cholera and no other cholera infections for over a century.

The affair raises serious concerns about whether or not insurance and reinsurance firms used the UN-created crisis to profit and highlights the endemic problems that the involvement of special interests can cause in humanitarian aid work.

 

Writer and Associate Editor at Disobedient Media.