F A C E | J U S T I C E
Victims of Cholera in Haiti Call for UN Justice
In mid-October 2010, the worst cholera epidemic in the world erupted in Haiti. Numerous scientists, including a panel of experts appointed by the United Nations (UN), have documented that UN peacekeepers with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) introduced cholera to Haiti by improperly disposing of sewage into Haiti’s largest river.
As cholera continues to surge, Haitian victims have persistently called on the UN to accept responsibility, invest in water and sanitation to eliminate cholera, and provide reparations. So far, the UN has ignored their calls for accountability.
These are just some of the faces of the people who are waiting for justice from the UN.
My name is Renette Viergélan. I am 31 years old. I live in Poirié, a small town on the far outskirts of St. Marc in Haiti. Our town is hard to reach by road. Medical care is very scarce. Many people here grow rice for a living.
In 2010, I had three children, but now I am left with two. In that year I was struck with cholera. While I was receiving treatment in the hospital in Grand Saline my 10-month old baby became sick. My sister took him to another hospital, and he died there. No one could tell me he died until I regained consciousness.
I haven’t been right in my mind since then. My good health is gone. My thoughts are consumed by the memory of my baby. He fought through life; he survived the struggles of childbirth and infancy, only to be taken by cholera. Sometimes I think it would have been better if I died instead. I had to return to the hospital for five months to recover from my shock and my grief, but it lingers. This continues to cause my other two children to suffer.
I am afraid of contracting cholera again. I am afraid for my children. I only drink treated water, I wash my hands. I am cautious.
My name is Cadet Gary. I’m 52 years old, and I live in Côte Plage, in Carrefour. In November 2014, my 18-month old baby started vomiting profusely. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, so I ran with him frantically to the local health clinic. They couldn’t help him so I ran to another clinic in town. Once the doctors saw him, they knew for certain he had cholera. He was almost completely dehydrated; we had arrived just in time.
After three days of sitting by his hospital bedside, I started to show the same symptoms. Cholera had struck me as well, and the fight was terrible.
I am a strong man in body and spirit, but after a day in this condition, I lost control of my body. I couldn’t take the oral hydration solution, and I was sure I was going to die. After another week my baby and I were released, but the shock of it stays with me. I couldn’t believe we fell ill, after all the precautions we had taken to avoid this by using only treated water and washing our hands. Other people in my community were sick too; six of us were in the hospital at the same time.
Cholera hit our country in 2010, and we thought it would be here temporarily, but it seems that it is here to stay. It’s a part of our air now.
My name is Olivia Jean-Pierre. In 2011, my two teenage girls became sick with cholera. I was recovering from childbirth, so it was my eldest son who recognized the girls’ symptoms. They were almost completely dehydrated by the time he ran with them to the hospital. I can’t imagine if I had lost them. When a mother loses her child, it’s like her insides are torn out.
My girls haven’t yet become 100 percent again. They go to school and put their heads on their desks, saying their heads hurt. They used to be such excellent students. Everyone that suffered from cholera, they are like the walking dead now. They lost all the water in their bodies when they suffered the disease, so they aren’t really the same people anymore. You can’t really buy a medication to replace all that cholera took from you.
For four years I’ve been marching, seeking justice and reparations alongside other cholera victims. But these efforts haven’t yet succeeded.
Justice for victims of cholera means that the UN:
- Lives up to its promise to bring clean water and sanitation to Haiti and builds hospitals that will ensure that all have access to medical care and no more lives are lost from cholera.
- Provides reparations for victims who have suffered from cholera and lost their loved ones.
- Publicly accepts responsibility for bringing it to Haiti, and formally apologizes to the victims.
Everyone can do something by:
- Signing a petition calling for clean water in Haiti: http://bit.ly/cholerapetition. Help us get to 30,000 supporters by December 10, Human Rights Day!
- Speaking out on social media. Tag the @UN and use #FaceJustice to connect with others.
Click to Tweet: 5 yrs without justice for cholera is 5 too many. @UN #FaceJustice now! www.facejustice.org
- Bringing FACE|JUSTICE to your community by hosting a film screening, panel discussion, photo exhibit, or postcard drive. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Individuals who work in the UN system are in a unique position to bring about change by:
- Staying informed and engaged on the issue.
- Educating your colleagues on the need for a just UN response.
- Advocating for cholera justice within your agencies, in the halls of the UN and among decision makers.
UN Member States can make justice a reality by:
- Asking the Secretary-General to issue a statement that acknowledges UN responsibility for cholera.
- Speaking out in support of remedies for victims at the General Assembly, the Security Council, and in private meetings.
- Providing funding for the UN Plan to Eliminate Cholera in Haiti. This plan has the support of the UN and the Haitian Government, but is currently only funded at 18%.
FACE|JUSTICE is a collaboration among victims of cholera, Haitian advocacy organizations, and international solidarity groups that support justice for victims’ of cholera. The campaign was launched on the fifth anniversary of the UN’s introduction of cholera to Haiti to urge the UN to face the victims who continue to demand justice.
FACE|JUSTICE is displaying portraits of victims outside the UN in New York, Geneva and Port-au-Prince through an INSIDE OUT Project Group Action. INSIDE OUT is an independent, large scale participatory art project that provides a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.