They’re opening two new buildings at the health ministry in Port au Prince today but it’s unclear if anyone at the Ministry will open up enough to speak frankly about the United Nations’ refusal to pay compensation to cholera victims.
In the four days since UN secretary-general Ban ki Moon rang Haiti’s President Martelly with the news, the Haitian government has stayed studiedly silent on the issue. Admittedly, it was not a party to the lawsuit brought against the United Nations by the Institute for Justice and Development in Haiti. But, as Caribbean Journal columnist Ilio Durandis writes, Mr Ban’s message needed to be relayed to the Haitian people by their president. That’s called connection and communications as opposed to public relations, with its inherent smarminess and synthetic sentimentalism.
Everyone who’s involved with the new buildings being opened today is talking them up. As well they might. “‘Building back better’ isn’t just a slogan, it’s a reality in public health. These buildings represent an important step forward to save lives in Haiti,”says Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), describing the new buildings’ importance as “far beyond their physical presence—they will serve as a basis and catalyst for programs that will save literally tens of thousands of lives.” The CDC financed the buildings using a mix of money and material support from entities such as the GE Foundation.
Buildings are all very well but communication is the foundation of good government. As Durandis says, “…if after bringing an epidemic that has now killed almost 8,000 and infected more than 200,000 people, the Haitian government has found a way to keep its silence, then it is clear as to some of the reasons why Haiti might remain a failed state for years to come.”
Some might find that overly harsh; to others it is unduly mild.