PLOS Currents: Disasters
[Accessed 28 October 2017]
The United Nations Material Assistance to Survivors of Cholera in Haiti: Consulting Survivors and Rebuilding Trust
October 23, 2017 · Brief Report
Introduction: In August 2016, the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General acknowledged the U.N.’s role in the cholera epidemic that has beset Haiti since 2010. Two months later, the Secretary General issued a historic apology to the Haitian people before the U.N. General Assembly, for the organization’s insufficient response to the cholera outbreak. These steps are part of the U.N.’s “new approach” to cholera in Haiti, which also includes launching a material assistance package for those most affected by cholera.
Methods: This paper draws on the authors’ experience and findings from consultations with more than 60,000 victims and communities affected by disasters and violence in a dozen countries. We reviewed the literature on best practices for consultation with and outreach to communities affected by development and transitional justice programming, and reviewed our own findings from previous studies with a view to identifying recommendations for ensuring that the assistance package reflects the views of people affected by cholera.
Results: The assistance package program is an opportunity to rebuild the relationship between the victims and the United Nations. This can only be achieved if victims are informed and engaged in the process. This consultation effort is also an opportunity to answer a set of key questions related to the nature, structure, and implementation of the victims’ assistance program, but also how the program may be designed to contribute to rebuilding Haitians’ confidence in the U.N. as an institution that promotes peace, human rights, and development.
Discussion: We recommend that the consultations must be accompanied by an outreach effort that provides clear, accurate information on the assistance program, so that it begins to establish a dialogue between the U.N. and cholera victims. Finally, we conclude by offering a number of concrete next steps that the U.N. can take to kick start the consultation process.