The UN Shines in Haiti

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This week’s earthquake in Haiti has been a catastrophe for the island nation, with hundreds of thousands feared dead. Less well documented but equally tragic is that relief organizations, including the United Nations, have also been swept up in the disaster’s wake.

The United Nations has suffered its worst loss of life from a single incident in its history as a result of the January 12 earthquake. As of this writing, the United Nations has reported the loss of 36 lives of its personnel – 13 civilians, 4 policemen and 19 members of the UN military peacekeeping force. At least 150 members of the UN international staff in Haiti remain unaccounted for, including some of the most senior UN officials there. Some UN personnel remain under the rubble that was once the UN’s headquarters building in Haiti, the Christopher Hotel. Half of the Christopher Hotel has totally collapsed.

All the while, to the credit of the UN personnel operating as best they can on the ground, they have redoubled their efforts to maintain order and to deliver humanitarian aid to the earthquake survivors literally living in the streets. Despite the loss of life in its own ranks, the United Nations has been coordinating all rescue, safety and humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

Search and rescue teams have been using dogs and electronic sensing equipment to try to find survivors. There have been at least 8 live rescues of UN personnel, including an Estonian bodyguard who was located when scratching sounds were heard. He was given water through a rubber pipe, and was extracted from the rubble in reasonably good shape.

Reporting via video link from Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, UN humanitarian coordinator in Haiti, Kim Bolduc and senior UN official David Wimhurst described their own harrowing escapes and the human devastation that they observed all around them. There were many dead bodies piled up on the streets, with the injured lying in the road “in a state of shock.” The capital, they said, resembled a “ghost town.” Bolduc and Wimhurst could not confirm reports that fatalities in Haiti have exceeded 100,000, but they said they would not be surprised if that turned out to be the case.

Amidst all of this carnage, Haitian President Rene Preval has taken no observable leadership role. He managed to create more confusion when he claimed, without any apparent confirmation, that the head of the peacekeeping mission in Haiti, Hedi Annabi of Tunisia, was dead. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters on Thursday that he had no information on which to conclude that Annabi was in fact dead and could not reach Preval to determine the basis of Preval’s assertion.

The Haitian police have been nowhere to be found, according to the UN officials reporting from Haiti. The UN forces, supported by U.S. Marines sent by President Obama, will shoulder the burden of preventing mayhem as tensions rise in the capital and elsewhere in Haiti. A question unanswered by UN officials was whether the Marines would be expected to operate under UN command. Nor was there any clarification of the rules of engagement for the UN forces if serious rioting were to break out. For example, would live ammunition be used as it was last November, which resulted in injuries to civilians?

These questions and others will require answers sooner or later. However, the United Nations deserves full support at this critical hour for Haiti. In disastrous conditions, the bravery, dedication and sacrifice being shown by the UN personnel on the ground in Haiti have been astounding.

  • therealend

    I don't know, the way these relief efforts go, this will drop out of the headlines fairly soon and donations with it. There will have to be a sustained effort for Haiti's future and not a cause du jour type of thing. It may, or probably will require a new utility system, roads and supplies to rebuild homes and other buildings according to code this time. Given the amount of destruction, this is the opportunity to do that. As for energy, just bring in shiploads of coal. That can't be any worse than the trees they cut down now to burn as fuel. And while they're at it, replant the hills with saplings. It will take years to do all this but the interest in doing it will probably wind down in a few weeks.

    • bushlikesdick2

      Or untill the next huge story breaks out.

  • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

    GIVE EARTHQUAKE RAVAGED ZONES BACK TO MOTHER EARTH!

    Why spend billions to move trash to built trash? What percentage of the houses were made of scrapes and junk?

    We all the leaders, every leader, has stolen most of all international aid. Most of the progress in Haiti is due to church and humanitarian organizations but all this not aid the Haitians in the long run since all aid is welfare and keep the people dependent on that welfare.

    DO NOT SPEND A DIME TO REBUILD! Galveston and New Orleans are still in ruins and we expect to rebuild in an earthquake zone when a disaster could come again at any time?

    RELOCATE ALL CITIZENS to other areas to the north like Cap Haitian and away from any faults.

    WHY ARE MOST CARRIBEAN ISLANDS TOURIST MECCAS AND HAITI ISN’T? I used Google Earth yesterday to scope for TURQUIOSE WATERS and beaches and there were many. GIVE, FOR FREE, LAND TO HOTEL CHAINS SO THEY CAN BUILD RESORTS THAT TOURISTS WILL FLOCK TO with ports for cruise ships and airports. IMPOSSIBLE YOU SAY? Cancun was a one main street town with hotels only for Mexicans. Down the road was a ONE HOTEL town of Playa de Carmen with a shuttle boat to Cozumel that had old hotels. Now Tulum, which was a desolate Mayan ruin, is full of resorts. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? THE TURQUIOSE WATERS! HAITI HAS THEM TOO!

    Why would tourists flock to Port-au-Prince? Yes, it’s different but would you take your family there for a vacation? There are many zones ripe for developement and all have the natural resources that people come to see and to relax in.

    NOW, abandon Port-au-Prince and it will soon be a real “Life After People.”

    REMOVE AND TRANSPORT PEOPLE OUT OF THESE ZONES NOW!!! There will soon be diseases due to rotting corpses. DO NOT TRANSPORT THEM TO THE “FINGER” GEOGRAPHICAL AREA OF HAITI SINCE IT IS NOW SITTING ON AN ACTIVE EARTHQUAKE FAULT!

    Do we also move them to other countries and use funds for relocation especially to France, since most speak French, and to Africa and the Americas?

    • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

      BOOK OF MATCHES=FIVE CENTS

      REMOVING SHACKS BUILT OUT OF JUNK=MILLION$

      REBUILDING/FEEDING MILLIONS FOR YEARS=BILLION$$$

      EVACUATING/ABANDONING=MILLION$

      ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE ON NOW ACTIVE FAULT=HERE WE GO AGAIN

      MOTHER EARTH CAUSED IT, LET HER HAVE IT!=FREE

      LOGIC!

      • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

        BRAIN DRAIN:

        If you were wealthy enough to own, live, have work, in a building made of concrete, YOU ARE MOST LIKELY DEAD!

        If you were one of the dirt poor, and poorer, who ate mud patties laced with a few grains of sugar, lived in a shack with no facilities, YOU ARE ALIVE!

        I am not saying that the poor don’t have brains, but they are the least educated. Those who are educated enough to rise out of poverty, WERE THE BRAINS OF HAITI!

        THE BRAINS THAT ARE LEFT, WILL LEAVE! WHAT WILL THAT LEAVE?

    • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

      “Do we also move them to other countries and use funds for relocation especially to France, since most speak French, and to Africa and the Americas?”

      SENEGAL, WEST AFRICA, HAS OFFERED FREE LAND TO HAITIANS TO COME TO THE “COUNTRY OF THEIR ORIGIN.”

  • C. Koziar

    The responses have been slow and erratic.
    In these type catastrophies, especially where there are concentrations of humans and no building codes, food, water, shelter, and, search/recovery teams early are critical. Simultaneously, fly in Medical personnel, supplies and infrastructure.

  • BS1977

    Haiti needs years of sustained aid and redevelopement…..and a more diverse population….

    • BS1977

      I collect Haitian art….My father went there twice and loved the people but the crushing poverty and lack of infrastructure, good roads, agriculture, business and organization made it difficult for luring tourism and international investment…..Haiti deserves an influx of port construction, a good airport, hotels….all far away from the earthquake fault.

      • bardefa

        just over the border, in Dominicana, tourism fluorishes!!! All my friends were there. none visited Haiti. I did last year….depressing.

    • bardefa

      Aristide, the (formerly) ruling thug, has offered huge interest rates to Haiti's middle class…then has stolen their money, ruining those, who could help develop Haiti…
      Listen to Michael Savage, #1 ("officially" #3) conservative host.
      Liberalism, regardless of borders, is a mental disaster.

    • BS1977

      thanks to the UN and all the incredible outpourings of aid and relief from the US, France etc…..great job…..an unbelievably tough situation!!!

  • USMCSniper

    What made the situation that much more tense was sightings of gangs of young men with machetes. On Wednesday they were seen getting into stores and taking all the supplies they could carry. The armed men were seen marching up and down the streets with machetes raised and the competition among the gangs turned quite fierce.

    Fights between gangs were seen on the streets. Machetes were flailing and it was impossible to predict what would happen next.

    There was no sign of police or any kind of law and order. Yeah, sure the UN is doing a great job, Bullshit.

    • bardefa

      I didn't see any UN blue helmet people…..UN clerks etc. died….US Army, instead of fighting in Afganistan and Iraq are doing UN and Red Cross job….
      And Barak Insain o'Bummer is i every news from there.

  • C. Koziar

    (Cont'd)
    …Ship in maps for personnel to use. Search teams supported by cranes/front end loaders, with chains, and cases of spray paint,body bags and marker pens to mark bags and areas searched and cleared. With the lack of adequate local emergency services management and manpower, hand- holding, wrt the local ruling entities,
    … while providing them with an overview of sensitive criterias drive efforts. Wrt air support, with the capability to go from zero to staged flow of inbound supplies, chopper in to perform the site survey of the runways and taxiways, then, USAF airfreight loaders, air mobile Comm, ATC, VORTAC, and fuel bladders, and their initial internal basic survival, power and security needs. Include initial Cmd/Control/Comms.
    Survey drop zones and cordon them. Air drops and air refueled chopper shuttled loads. Equipment to clear/marshal deliveries in drops by heavy chopper or palletised drops along with initial additional manpower.

  • USMCSniper

    Charles Krauthammer says that before we are through in the shithole of Haiti that American Marines and Soldiers will be killed by looting gangs because the ridiculous rules of engagement and that we will still be there in 5 years with about $1,000,000,000 down the toilet and nothing will change for these primitive voodoo worshiping savages.

  • mikidiki

    Will someone explain why there were so many UN personnel on the island and why these included peace-keeping forces? Further, why is the United States going to waste billions of dollars there .. it will get no thanks only abuse as however much it does and spends will never be enough for the welfare aid dependency culture. Already the islanders are complaining that aid is taking too long to reach there as if they are entitled to it instead of being grateful for it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rbblum rbblum

    IF the UN really wanted to shine during the heartache experienced by Haiti, why not relocate the UN headquarters from New York to Haiti . . . at the expense of each member nation.

  • Mike

    Speaking of Haiti.I haven't seen any Muslim countries on the list of countries sending aid to Haiti. I've seen Israel ,European countries,India , China ,Japan,South Korea and Australia etc.

  • therealend

    Maybe people don't like the prospect of wasting any money when it comes to aiding Haiti, but we don't let people die because of that. We don't let people die because of politics. We also don't fly our planes into buildings. We don't shoot women in the back of the head for adultery. We don't use children or retarded citizens as suicide bombers. We pick up a lot of the slack. Americans are different that way because people are all that really matter on this planet.

    • coyote3

      Politics has nothing to do with it. We have given and given, and given to Haiti since the 1890s, and nothing ever changes. Sounds like insanity is what is "different", i.e., when you keep doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result.

      • therealend

        We've done things badly or stupidly with aid to Haiti and expected an outstanding result which is another definition of insanity. If we try doing things better, then we should expect a better result. Money is just money. These are actual people that are at risk. Maybe you think that's where we differ, but I don't think we do. If Obama can pick the right person to administer this and that person administers this properly, then we can achieve a lot of good. We've done this before. CARE to aid Europe after WWII was expensive but overall a success. The same thing with Japan and South Korea. Anyway, I hope Obama gets it right this time. Regardless, something has to be done. I can't see walking away from those people.

        • coyote3

          I can see walking away. As far as Europe and South Korea are concerned, depends on our definition of success. We are still fighting in Korea.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

    I thought this article was going to be about how quick the UN was to respond, I didn't think about their existing presence there. The UN had much worse days during the Korean War, but I guess that doesn't count to some.

    I bet while the UN is still just running fact finding junkets, the USA will be on the ground there helping people out of our own pocket, as usual. There's never been a country like America, we ARE exceptional.

    • coyote3

      i wondered about that. Certainly, Korea was an objective and unmitigated disaster for the U.N. The fact that that war is stil going on is good evidence of how well the U.N. has done the job that it set out for itself.

      As for Haiti, we have been actively involved in that country since the 1890s. It was a shithole then, and it is still a shithole, through successive Democrat and Republican administrations. All we do is succeed in getting a few grunt kids killed, and everything remains the same. So, we haven't been so effective either. The exceptional part is the insanity. We keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Slveryder Slveryder

    I don't see that the U.N. is particularly shining here. Are you going to tell me they just happened to have SAR dogs and rescue teams sitting around waiting for a natural disaster to occur? Otherwise, I think the appropriate headline for this article would be "U.N. in Shambles as U.S. Military & Civilian Disaster Relief Groups Spring into Action"

    Those "UN" troops are ours, not theirs. (most of them-I'm sure there are other nations as well but they do NOT belong to the UN)

    As for what to do with Haiti-I vote turn it into the 51st state. We've already poured billions into the pit, and are about to do so again. Just annex the sucker and see how fast we can get it straightened out playing by our rules. (not very, but probably still more effective than their government)

  • kymagirl

    Please, please move the UN to Haiti & free NY!

  • Anne

    Here's a nice scene of appreciation. American rescuers in Haiti carry a woman out of the rubble and a huge crowd cheers and calls "USA!! USA!!" Wow! Not often you get thanked. Usually Americans just get bashed for helping, like that French minister claiming that the US was "occupying Haiti". What an a$$! Well, the Haitians seem pretty happy to be "occupied."

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/19/crowd-ch

  • http://douglasbankorn.typepad.com/blog Odilia Arnette

    I wish more people were like Mr. George Clooney. What he has done to help the Haitian people is just amazing. So many of the Hollywood celebrities are just phonies looking for publicity. George is one of the true greats.

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  • weirdo

    good article