Haiti says it wants UN peacekeeping force to stay on as it tackles social problems

23 September 2011

Haitian President Michel Martelly said today he does not want the United Nations peacekeeping mission to leave but to stay on to assist the impoverished country as his Government seeks to tackle the problems of education, jobs, the environment and the rule of law.

“Welcomed in the early days with relief these missions later run out of breath,” he told the General Assembly. “Why? Because, among other things, the expectations of host countries on the one hand are overblown and, on the other, these missions are unable to evolve, frozen as they are in inflexible mandates.

“And that’s a pity because nothing is more irresponsible and dangerous than to let these missions leave without an effective national alternative.”

The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), first dispatched as a peacekeeping force in mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest, had an authorized strength of over 9,000 uniformed personnel, but this was increased to more than 13,000 in January 2010 to help the country recover from a devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 people, displaced 2.3 million others, and caused enormous material damage.

“In Haiti’s case what would have been the point of this mission if today, without striking a blow, without warning, it would withdraw,” Mr. Martelly said.

“Clearly I am aware of that unacceptable mistakes have stained the mission’s prestige but the trees should not hide the forest. And I rightly think that political stabilization passes through several stages.

“It cannot be reduced to a simple intervention force or one that that plays the more or less neutral role of observers,” he added, outlining the vital place that education and jobs have in consolidating peace.

Just months after the January 2010 quake a cholera epidemic broke out in the country following a hurricane and flooding and it has so far killed more than 6,000 people and infected nearly 400,000 others.

The UN reported today that new cases declined by over 50 per cent within the last two months. Citing Haitian data, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there were 20,093 new cholera cases in August, compared to 40,873 in July.

The number of deaths also decreased significantly from 376 in July to 298 in August. Mortality rates are steadily abating in all 10 departments.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) there are still 4.5 million Haitians, nearly half the total, who do not have sufficient quantities of nutritious food on a regular basis.

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Ban and Haitian leader discuss plan to reduce military component of UN mission

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Michel Martelly of Haiti today discussed a plan to scale back the military component of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Caribbean country over the coming year, as it recovers from the devastation wrought by a massive earthquake in early 2010.