The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, today strongly welcomed the announcement by the United Nations’ Secretary-General of support for efforts to eliminate cholera transmission from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced $23.5 million in new funds from the United Nations and $215 million in existing bilateral and multilateral funds to support the ongoing cholera elimination efforts. Just over the next two years, $500 million will be needed in Haiti alone.
The announced funding will reinforce the broader “Call for Action for a Cholera-free Hispaniola” launched in January 2012 by the Presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic with support from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).You're welcome to click through to read the whole post, which is just more of the same self-serving bureaucratic bumph, full of initialisms and acronyms of agencies full of well-paid officials.
The post itself is not exactly breaking news; it just recycles the same $23.5 million number Ban himself trotted out last year. And it smoothly ignores the fact that if "$500 million will be needed in Haiti alone," no one has promised anything like that sum. Like Mr. Micawber, PAHO seems to hope that the money will turn up somehow.
It's not exactly a shocker that PAHO's director would "strongly welcome" the announcement; as the Americas branch office of WHO, PAHO is just another branch office of the UN itself. It would be real news if Dr. Mirta Roses Periago had said: "We brought cholera to Haiti, we apologize, and we will convert every UN dollar we have into building infrastructure and compensating the victims of our incompetent and unsanitary behaviour."
Judging from the stories on the UN News Centre this weekend, the organization is trying to deal with everything from the terrorist attack in Algeria to rape and torture in Mali to the violence in Syria and the general issues of disarmament. It's the only agency trying to do something about wars we don't even bother to notice, like those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Those are serious issues, and people are dying because of them even as I type these words. I think I have some sense of the political constraints under which UN agencies must operate when they try to address such issues. I believe the world would be much worse off without the UN.
But it becomes a matter of medical ethics when UN health agencies, staffed by medical personnel, fail to admit UN responsibility for disasters like cholera in Hispaniola. Trying to spin their feeble response into a Good News Story only spins those agencies out of medical ethics into outright, abject moral bankruptcy.
If we can't trust these well-paid, well-educated, well-tailored people to tell the truth about Haiti, how can we trust them to deal with any of the other global health issues they're tasked with?