AS THE WORLD TURNS News Weekly
, April 14, 2012
UN culpability for Haiti’s cholera epidemic
Since October 2010, cholera has killed more than 7,050 Haitians and sickened more than 531,000, or 5 per cent of the population. Lightning fast and virulent, it spread from here through every Haitian state, erupting into the world’s largest cholera epidemic despite a huge international mobilisation still dealing with the effects of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.
The world rallied to confront cholera, too, but the mission was muddled by the United Nations’ apparent role in igniting the epidemic and its unwillingness to acknowledge it. Epidemiologic and microbiologic evidence strongly suggests that United Nations peacekeeping troops from Nepal imported cholera to Haiti, contaminated the river tributary next to their base through a faulty sanitation system and caused a second disaster.
“It was like throwing a lighted match into a gasoline-filled room,” said Dr Paul S. Keim, a microbial geneticist whose laboratory determined that the Haitian and Nepalese cholera strains were virtually identical.
And, as the deaths and continuing caseload indicate, the world’s response to this preventable, treatable scourge has proved inadequate. Cholera, never before recorded in Haiti, stayed one step ahead of the authorities as they shifted gears from the earthquake recovery. While eventually effective in reducing the fatality rate, the response was slow to get fully under way, conservative and insufficiently sustained.
In February 2011, nearly four months after the outbreak, the United Nations’ independent experts arrived in Haiti.
The victims’ lawyers have asked the United Nations to establish a commission to hear the claim. Mr Anthony Banbury [a United Nations assistant secretary-general] said the claim is “under serious review by the legal affairs department”.
Extract from Deborah Sontag and André Paultre, “In Haiti, global failures on a cholera epidemic”, New York Times, March 31, 2012.
Eight centuries of law obliterated overnight
Throughout history and across cultures, marriage has been recognised as being between one man and one woman. Over the centuries, when legislatures brought in laws on marriage, they were not inventing it, just recognising its reality.
More recently, though, familiar words such as “husband and wife” and “mother and father” are disappearing from the statute books in the small minority of countries that have begun the experiment in social engineering….
We must recognise that marriage has established historical, sociological and religious foundations. Such statutes as affect it are designed primarily to regulate its legal consequences. Such a heritage cannot sensibly be equated to the denial of equality or to the practice of discrimination. Marriage is surely not the mere provision of goods and services by its participants, or churches or ceremonies that solemnise it.
Marriage of a man and a woman has sacramental meaning for many religious believers. Such marriage is an institution in our society. It is not to be redefined and re-engineered to meet some contemporary sentiment.
Extract from Lord Daniel Brennan QC, “Gay marriage: Eight centuries of law obliterated overnight”, The Telegraph (UK), March 13, 2012.
The last thing we need is politicians who feel our pain
[British Conservative Prime Minister] David Cameron has been accused of being out of touch. If true, it could be his greatest strength. There are millions of us out-of-touch people who appreciate that quality.
Furthermore, whatever people are telling him, we definitely don’t want him — or any politician — to reach out to us.
After his Bradford by-election embarrassment, [Labour Opposition leader] Ed Miliband has threatened to listen. Being listened to by politicians is always a daunting thought. You imagine them loitering on street corners and buses, hoping to overhear us as we “voice our real concerns”.
Similarly, at times of trouble, they are advised to surround themselves with a team of in-touch, bright young people, preferably from a working-class background. The problem with this is that they feel obliged to come up with initiatives. That word fills the heart with dread. They might even dream up policies that appeal to women — something most women I know would find unappealing.
Above all, I hope no one tells Mr Cameron to show the common touch. So the message is: don’t worry about not being in touch. Don’t bother to reconnect. If we need anything, we’ll get in touch with you.
Extract from Oliver Pritchett, “The last thing we need is politicians who feel our pain”, The Telegraph (UK), April 2, 2012.