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Beyond Wyclef: What Haitians Want From Elections

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

by: Beverly Bell, t r u t h o u t | Report

 

photo
What difference will a new government make in the daily lives of Haitians? (Photo: Beverly Bell)

We asked dozens of Haitians from different social sectors how they felt about the November 28 elections, and what they want or expect from a new government. Here are some of their responses.

Louisiane Nazaire defines herself as a peasant. She is a member of a local peasant farmer group in the Grande-Anse and is coordinator of the National Commission of Peasant Women.

“We don’t trust these elections, either the power or the electoral council. But we realized that the elections would go forward anyway, so we decided we had to participate so we peasants don’t stay in the same situation we’re in now. So now we in [the national peasant movements and agricultural federations of] the National Commission of Peasant Women [KONAFAP], the National Movement of Peasants of the Papay Congress [MPNKP], and the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security [RENHASSA] are running local candidates in a bunch of places, peasants who will represent our interests and our voices. This can help us get power that represents the peasants and all the people.

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“Now society treats us terribly, peasants and poor women. Especially women: as citizens, we need our rights, our voices, and laws respected. We shouldn’t be treated differently than men, regardless of class.

“One thing we want from a new government is for the national budget to reflect the interests of peasants and agriculture. We need credit, too. The country depends on us peasants, but they don’t give us anything. If we farmers didn’t work for a month, the whole nation would perish. Still, the [percentage of the national] budget for peasants and agriculture was only 3% for years, and after a lot of mobilization it went up to 4%.

“We’re claiming our vote, and we’re using our participation to ensure that our vote has worth. If we see that our votes aren’t counted, we’ll take to the streets and demand that the election is redone or just annulled.”

Suze Jean is a primary school teacher, a university student of electronics and a self-described revolutionary. An elected member of the management committee of her internally displaced people‘s camp on the grounds of an evangelical church, Suze was evicted, and her tent and belongings were destroyed by the pastor’s son, after she and others put out a press release about camp conditions in September. She now lives on the streets, and is eight months pregnant.

“I see the elections of November 28 as an injustice to the population who are victims of the earthquake of January 12. This money [from the campaign] could be used to help people who are in difficulty.

“And all these candidates: we’ve been living under tarps for nine months, and we haven’t seen one of these people do anything for us. They’re deaf, they don’t hear anything. We need forced expulsions to stop. We can’t stand them anymore.

“Ten camps in [the neighborhood of] Carrefour have come together to mobilize against the elections. We will resist. We’re organizing to not participate in elections as long as we’re living under tarps in the rain and the mud, and as long as they’re throwing us out of camps. We’ll do demonstrations, sit-ins, everything we can to not participate and help other camp committees not participate. We won’t use violence to block people, but we’re trying to mobilize them to boycott.

“We’ll participate in elections once they respond to our demands, once they address the problems of people living in temps and getting evicted from them, once they stop forcing people to work as supposed volunteers in the camp, once they stop forcing women to sleep with men who control [distribution of] humanitarian aid to get any.

“The positive alternative we want is a candidate who’s sensitive to our needs, who has a good vision of how to take care of our problems, who would create a pro-people government. Who would take our needs to the international community. We need someone who knows our suffering and who has the maturity and conscientiousness to lead. We need someone from the level of the people.”

Wilner Jean-Charles was a marketing student until political upheaval in 2004 forced him to leave school. Wilner now serves as a guide and driver for tourist groups.

“I’m not into politics. But I believe that if someone had a really good, long-term program for youth, we could have real development. If that candidate had an education program to get all the street children to school, and gave them the opportunity for a good university education, and developed good employment for those kids once they get out, they’d be building a different kind of citizenry. Just project 50 years out to what kind of people those kids would be.

“What candidate do I support? I haven’t taken the time to read up to see if any of the candidates have a program for Haiti’s education program. But if I found one that did, and if that person had a minimum of credibility, I’d vote for him.”

Jocie Philistin is a human rights advocate. She coordinates a network of women’s organizations for the Bureau of International Lawyers in Port-au-Prince.

“Once we have the candidate we need, someone who can hear and respond to the rights of the people, you’ll see the majority accompanying him or her to the elections. You saw that in 1990, when all the Haitian people decided they wanted a candidate [Jean-Bertrand Aristide]. They [67 percent of the electorate] voted him in. Naturally, the people would have to continue to make sure their demands are applied even if that candidate wins.

“Meanwhile, what I see with the elections is that Parti Unité [President Préval’s party] is just looking to validate a selection that’s already happened. They’ve already stolen the presidency and the parliament. Selection isn’t election.

“I know the international community always plays a big role in elections. If they just back up a selection, the people will just stay as they are in their camps and in their insecurity. One word: block any selection.”

Josette Pérard is director of Fon Lanbi Haiti, the Haitian counterpart of the Lambi Fund. Trained as a social worker, Josette runs a program to train, build capacity of, and get grants to women’s and small farmer organizations in rural areas.

“It wasn’t long ago that a small group of people used French as a way to isolate everyone. People couldn’t participate in anything because they didn’t speak French. They couldn’t even understand what was being said on the radio. Today, everyone says what they think, they want to participate, to enter into the debate. It’s a movement.

“The people will have to be a part of any change of the state. Otherwise, it won’t work. But for that, [the president and government] will have to trust the people. I hear candidates open their mouths to speak of ‘the people.’ They talk about what they’ll do for, the people, but never what they’ll do with them. Nice vision and nice speech from the president aren’t enough. The only way for us to have a change is if the people are part of the process.”

Ludovic Cherustal is a young database technician working for a humanitarian aid NGO from Canada. He hopes for a more stable job so he can start a family.

“People would be interested in the elections if they saw that the outcome would have an impact on their needs. But the candidates are all gwo manjè, big eaters, from the same group of people who always exploit us. Most of them have been the system, benefiting from it, for a long time. They’re not going to do anything for us, the little poor people.”

Alina “Tibebe” Cajuste was a slave as a child, and now is a children’s rights activist and poet. Her dreams in life are to become literate and to see an end to child slavery.

“I lost my electoral card in the earthquake [when my house was destroyed] and it’s so hard to get a new one. I have to vote, but I don’t know how I’m going to do that.

“But a new president can come to power and Haiti will still be the same, especially if all he sees are his pockets and not the people. If a new president doesn’t give us primary schools, professional schools, and business in the countryside, it’ll be just like washing your hands and drying them in the dirt.

“If we don’t have a change in consciousness, we can have all the elections we want and Haiti will remain as fragile as a crystal.”

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Anti-UN protests spread as Haitians die without aid

November 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Residential district

Residential District

By Bill Van Auken
20 November 2010

Protests against United Nations troops spread to the capital of Port-au-Prince Thursday as growing numbers of Haitians were dying of cholera in the absence of significant aid from the UN or other relief agencies.

The latest report from the Haitian government has put the number of deaths from cholera at 1,180 and the number of people who have sought treatment at some 20,000. The figures, which do not include the increasing number of people dying in the streets and in their homes without ever receiving treatment, considerably underestimate the real toll.

Large numbers of protesters took to the streets of the capital on Thursday in demonstrations demanding the withdrawal of the UN occupation force, known as MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), which many Haitians blame for bringing cholera into the country.

There were several clashes between the protesters and the UN troops, including one in which a patrol was attacked with a barrage of stones. Police and protesters faced off near the National Palace, Radio Metropole reported, with the police using tear gas to disperse the demonstration. Instances in which vehicles operated by foreign aid workers were attacked with rocks were also reported.

In several parts of the city, demonstrators erected barricades made of burning tires and tore down campaign posters for the Unity party of President René Preval and his hand-picked successor, Jude Celestin. Elections are scheduled for November 28.

The unrest in the capital followed three days of rioting in the northern port city of Cap Haitien, in which at least two people were killed, one shot in the back by UN troops, and a number of others wounded.

The immediate trigger for the upheavals is the growing conviction that cholera was introduced into Haiti by a battalion of UN troops brought from Nepal shortly before the first cases were reported. The Nepalese troops were based on the Artibonite River, whose contaminated waters have been determined as the source of the outbreak. It was also revealed that faulty sanitary facilities at the base were dumping sewage into the river.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US have determined that the strain of cholera—a disease that had not been reported in Haiti for nearly a century—originated in south Asia. Nepal has been struck with its own epidemic of the disease.

UN officials have dismissed accusations that the Nepalese unit brought the disease into the country, claiming that none of the troops tested positive for cholera.

On Thursday, however, Nigel Fisher, the United Nations coordinator of humanitarian affairs in Haiti, revealed to Canada’s CBC news that a French epidemiologist had conducted a study that directly tied the cholera strain in Haiti to Nepal.

Whatever the precise source of the cholera bacteria, the reality is that millions of Haitians have been left defenseless in the face of the disease because of a long legacy of economic exploitation and political oppression linked to the Caribbean nation’s domination by US capitalism.

The vast majority of the population lacked access to clean water and adequate sanitation even before the devastating earthquake last January that killed a quarter of a million people and left a million and a half more people homeless, creating ideal conditions for the disease’s spread.

UN officials have denounced the protests, charging that they have been orchestrated by “enemies of stability and democracy” for the purpose of destabilizing the country in advance of next week’s election.

Large sections of the Haitian population are hostile to both the UN troops and the elections. The so-called “peace-keepers” are widely seen as an occupying army whose purpose is to suppress popular unrest and defend the interests of Haiti’s ruling elite and foreign capital. The UN force was brought into the country in 2004 to relieve US Marines who invaded Haiti after a US-orchestrated coup that ended in the overthrow and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Fanmi Lavalas, the party that backs Aristide and the only political organization in the country with a genuine popular base of support, is barred from running in the current election, as it has been in every vote since the US-backed coup.

UN officials and aid groups have warned that the growing popular upheavals are making it more difficult to provide treatment and prevention against cholera.

“Despite the urgent appeals of the humanitarian community, roads, airports and bridges are still blocked, barricades were still erected in the area of Cap-Haitien, one of the regions most affected by the spread of cholera,” Edmond Mulet, special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations in Haiti, said in a statement Thursday. “If this situation continues, more and more desperate patients awaiting care are at risk of dying; more and more Haitians in desperate need of access to preventive care may fall victim to the epidemic.”

This message was echoed by the director of the Pan-American Health Organization, Mirta Roses. “The situation of violence and insecurity now threatens to severely limit our success,” she said. “We understand the frustration of many Haitians because of the tragic situation that has developed, but emergency medical personnel is equally important to save lives as the rescue teams were after the earthquake.”

Aid organizations and even elements of the UN itself, however, have increasingly denounced the failure of the UN and the major powers to provide anywhere near the aid that is needed to confront the combined calamities of the earthquake’s devastation and the cholera outbreak.

Imogen Wall, spokeswoman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told the Reuters news agency that only $5 million of the $164 million for which the UN had issued an emergency appeal to fight the cholera epidemic has been forthcoming.

“The response is completely inadequate and in this situation where we are against the clock we urgently need support if we are going to save lives,” said Wall. “We don’t have what we need to do it. … Cholera is a race against time. If we can get to people, and if we have what we need, we should be saving lives.”

The OCHA spokeswoman said that the outbreak of cholera, coming on top of the crisis confronting some 1.3 million Haitians living under tents and tarps since the January earthquake, have stretched the agency to the breaking point.

“Basically, we are running two emergencies,” said Wall. “We cannot neglect the earthquake survivors because we have cholera.”

The aid group Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) issued a similar statement on Friday. “Critical shortfalls in the deployment of well established measures to contain cholera epidemics are undermining efforts to stem the ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti,” warned the agency, which has set up more than 20 cholera treatment facilities throughout Port-au-Prince, in the Artibonite region, and in the north of Haiti.

“Despite the huge presence of international organizations in Haiti, the cholera response has to date been inadequate in meeting the needs of the population,” the organization said.

Stefano Zannini, MSF head of mission in Haiti, added, “More actors are needed to treat the sick and implement preventative actions, especially as cases increase dramatically across the country. There is no time left for meetings and debate—the time for action is now.”

MSF facilities have been increasingly overrun with Haitians seeking treatment for cholera. The number of people seeking treatment at centers run or supported by the aid group rose from 350 for the week ending November 7 to 2,250 cases for the week ending November 14.

The failure of the UN, Washington and the other major powers to provide adequate aid to halt the deadly spread of the cholera epidemic in Haiti compounds the criminal neglect of the country in the aftermath of January’s 7.0 earthquake.

Despite the outpouring of sympathy and donations from millions of ordinary people, more than 10 months after the quake, next to nothing has been done to rebuild Haiti and provide the kind of basic infrastructure that could have protected its people from cholera and other deadly diseases.

As of September, only 15 percent of the aid promised to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake had reached the country. Washington, which bears the greatest historic responsibility for the dire conditions in Haiti, has yet to disburse one penny of the $1.5 billion that it pledged.

A survey conducted by several advocacy groups eight months after the earthquake found that virtually no one made homeless by the disaster has been moved to new, permanent housing. Among the atrocious conditions prevailing in the tent camps is a lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation, creating conditions for cholera to claim many more victims.

The study found that “potable water was only available to residents who could pay for it.” As a result, “44 percent of families primarily drank untreated water.” It also found that only 69 percent of people in the camps had access to latrines or pit toilets, and that these were overcrowded, unsafe and unclean, posing a threat of infection.

Aid officials acknowledge that given these conditions, cholera will plague Haiti for a long time to come. “The epidemic is not going to go away,” said the UN humanitarian coordinator Nigel Fisher. “It is almost impossible to stop.”

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Haiti dodges storm disaster, cholera toll rises

November 7, 2010 1 comment

Rolling In

Rolling In

07 Nov 2010 00:55:44 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Hurricane Tomas causes floods, eight people killed * Aid workers fear floods could worsen cholera epidemic * Death toll from cholera outbreak tops 500 (Updates storm and cholera tolls, adds details, quotes) By Matthew Bigg PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 6 (Reuters) – Earthquake-hit Haiti escaped a fresh disaster threatened by Hurricane Tomas, but the storm caused flooding that killed eight people and increased the contagion threat from a deadly cholera epidemic, the government and aid workers said on Saturday.
Amid widespread relief that the hurricane largely spared crowded camps in the Haitian capital housing 1.3 million quake survivors, the international humanitarian operation was turning its attention back to the two-week-old epidemic, which has killed just over 500 people and sickened more than 7,000. “We do expect the infection rate to jump up due to the flooding and to the bad sanitation conditions in many areas,” Christian Lindmeier, spokesman in Haiti for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, told Reuters. “Cholera is a water-borne disease and so additional water means additional risk,” said Lindmeier. Tomas skirted Haiti on Friday, flooding some coastal towns, forcing thousands from their homes and soaking camps for displaced people in the capital Port-au-Prince with rain.
Eight people died as a result of the hurricane, the government said on Saturday, and about 10,000 people left their homes voluntarily to escape floodwaters. That was a light storm toll compared with the destruction inflicted by hurricanes and storms that battered the Western Hemisphere’s poorest county in 2004 and 2008, killing several thousand people. More than 250,000 people died in the Jan. 12 earthquake that struck the poor Caribbean country. United Nations officials said Haiti was lucky it was not hit harder by Tomas, an unpredictable late hurricane in the busy 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. “We have avoided the worst,” said Elisabeth Diaz, spokeswoman for the U. N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Hurricane Tracker: http://www.reuters.com/subjects/hurricanes Other links: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ http://www.skeetobiteweather.com/ http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/ Insurance Linked Securities: https://inside.thomsonreuters.com/trading/ILS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> After raking Haiti, Tomas swept over the Turks and Caicos Islands early on Saturday as a tropical storm. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties. By late Saturday, Tomas had regained hurricane strength over the open Atlantic, but posed no threat to land. While sparing Haiti widespread destruction or mass casualties, the hurricane still created a major disruption weeks before presidential and legislative elections set for Nov. 28.
Electoral officials have not postponed the vote. DISEASE RISK, CROP DAMAGE The cholera epidemic, which has affected five of Haiti’s provinces, still appeared to be spreading. Haiti’s health ministry released updated figures showing 501 people had died through Nov. 4, up from 442 on Nov. 3. The deadly diarrheal disease can be easily treated by oral rehydration if caught in time. Relief agencies were rushing clean drinking water and food to areas affected by the floods. One of the worst hit zones was Leogane, a town west of Port-au-Prince badly damaged in the January earthquake. There was also flooding in Les Cayes, Jacmel and Gonaives.
The British charity Save the Children said floodwaters in Leogane had affected some 35,000 people, turning streets into “rivers,” destroying possessions and washing out tents. Thousands of children in Leogane were now at increased risk of diseases like cholera, diarrhea and malaria, said Gary Shaye, country director for Save the Children in Haiti Haiti’s government and the United Nations appealed to donors on Friday for nearly $19 million to cover urgent needs. Dispatched to help with relief operations, the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima was ready to send in helicopters, landing craft, engineers and medics. Haitian President Rene Preval and the top U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the country, Nigel Fisher, inspected the flood-affected areas by helicopter. Fisher said the hurricane damaged the coffee crop and other crops like bananas, and urged the international community to focus again fully on Haiti’s arduous post-quake rebuilding.
“This (the storm) has taken our eye off the ball but we have to get back to it now. … The emphasis absolutely has to be on recovery,” he said, urging that homeless quake survivors be gradually integrated back into their communities. In Port-au-Prince, still scarred by the Jan. 12 quake, hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors sat out the storm under rain-drenched tents and tarpaulins. “My tent has lots of holes in it, so we got wet,” said Renette Dornis, 38. Jamaica escaped major damage from Tomas, but rains forced the evacuation of several thousand people in eastern Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor on Hispaniola island.
(Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in Port-au-Prince, Horace Helps in Kingston, Manuel Jimenez in Santo Domingo, Jeff Franks in Havana; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Todd Eastham)
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DomRep on watch for cholera from Haiti

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

The Associated Press

Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 | 2:38 p.m.

A deadly cholera outbreak in Haiti is worrying tourism officials in neighboring Dominican Republic and prompting glittery seaside resorts to beef up sanitation measures, officials said Thursday.

The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and borders the central plateau where new cholera cases are being found in an epidemic that has claimed more than 300 lives and hospitalized 4,700 others.

Dominican officials have already stepped up military patrols on the border with Haiti and announced that all people crossing must wash their hands and complete a medical form. Now, tourism and health officials have extended health measures to the nation’s east and north, where numerous beach resorts are popular with foreign tourists.

Government epidemiologists are teaching resort workers how cholera is preventable with clean water and sanitation, things that are hard to find in the Western Hemisphere‘s poorest country next door. They are telling them to promptly report any suspicious cases they might see.

“All the hotels must notify any possible case of cholera,” said Health Ministry spokesman Luis Garcia.

Tourism is big business in the Dominican Republic. With 67,300 hotel rooms, the tourist sector generates around 12 percent of the gross domestic product, according to the central bank.

The head of the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants, Luis Llibre, called for stronger measures to prevent any cholera cases in the Dominican Republic but offered no specific solutions.

Meanwhile, health experts warned that border controls will do little to stem the spread of cholera.

“Closing borders is not recommended by WHO. What is recommended is reinforcing surveillance systems” so that early outbreaks can be found and treated, Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the World Health Organization‘s global task force on cholera control, told AP by phone from Geneva.

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Haiti cholera toll tops 250, but seen stabilizing

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

24 Oct 2010 15:50:03 GMT
Source: Reuters
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Oct 24 (Reuters) – The death toll from a cholera epidemic in Haiti has reached more than 250, health authorities said on Sunday, but they added the outbreak may be stabilizing with fewer new deaths and new cases reported over the last 24 hours.
Gabriel Thimote, Director General of Haiti’s Health Department, told a news conference in Port-au-Prince that the accumulated deaths since the outbreak began stood at 253, while total cases were 3,015.
(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Sandra Maler)
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Cholera Reaches Haitian Capital

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

(From source) This cholera patient is drinking...

(From source) This cholera patient is drinking oral rehydration solution (ORS) in order to counterac...

October 24, 2010

An epidemic of cholera that has ravaged northern and central Haiti killing 220 people has reportedly reached the country’s densely populated capital.

The UN’s Pan American Health Organization said in a statement that the Haitian Public Health Ministry has confirmed five cases in Port-au-Prince.

UN officials stressed that the five cases, the first confirmed in the capital since the epidemic started, were people who had become infected in the main outbreak zone of Artibonite north of Port-au-Prince and had subsequently traveled to the city where they fell sick.

The epidemic comes 10 months after an earthquake devastated the island nation.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in impoverished tent cities, particularly around Port-au-Prince, where sanitation is poor and where relief groups say the diarrhea-causing illness could spread rapidly.

Cholera, transmitted by contaminated water and food, can kill in hours if left untreated, through dehydration. But it can be treated easily with oral rehydration salts or just a simple mix of water, sugar, and salt. TV and radio adds in Creole recommended that treatment to the population.

compiled from agency reports

 


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Cholera Outbreak Strikes Haiti

October 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Residential district

Residential district

by: Maura O’Connor  |  GlobalPost | Report

Editor’s note: The death toll in the Haiti cholera outbreak had reached 142 with more than 1,500 infected by Friday morning. Aid groups are rushing in medicine and supplies to try to contain the cholera epidemic.

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti — An outbreak of cholera has sickened dozens of Haitians, health officials here said, and raised fears that the disease could make its way through languishing refugee camps. It’s a potential new disaster for a country still reeling from the massive earthquake that struck its capital almost one year ago.

The outbreak could be another failure on a growing list that has many here, and elsewhere in the world, wondering if the United Nations and its secretary- general, Ban Ki-moon, are fulfilling its humanitarian role.

On one recent day here, in front of a garbage-littered, shanty-lined alleyway, a convoy of U.N. jeeps came to a stop. Sixteen military peacekeepers in camouflaged fatigues, flak jackets, blue helmets and armed with automatic rifles, stepped into the hundred-degree heat and began to walk.

Every two hours, day and night, this battalion of Brazilian nationals conducts foot patrols in Cite Soleil, the slum in Port-Au-Prince victimized for years by violence between armed gangs and a dismal lack of basic services. The battalion is part of MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), which has been trying to maintain security in the city since 2004.

Given how the troops saunter through the streets, this patrol might seem routine. Not so for their boss, Ban Ki-moon. His fate, and the status of the global organization he heads, is inextricably tied to the future of Cite Soleil and other earthquake-stricken neighborhoods of Port-Au-Prince.

For the United Nations, Haiti is personal. And so far, it’s not going well.

When the Jan. 12 earthquake took 300,000 lives, it also claimed MINUSTAH’s head of operations and 100 other U.N. personnel. On the 38th floor of the Secretariat building in New York City, the disaster quickly became one of the biggest tests of Ban’s leadership since his election four years ago.

Despite the scale of tragedy, some analysts have likened Ban’s response to that of President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina: slow, underwhelming and off-message. The secretary-general did not address the U.N. press corps until 14 hours after the quake hit. When he did, he seemed tone-deaf, saying the total death toll could “may well be in the hundreds.”

After the quake, Ban visited the country only twice — the last time was seven months ago. A report by Refugees International said that 70 percent of Haiti’s camps for people displaced by the disaster remain unmanaged, in part because of faults within the U.N.’s local organizational system. Refugees International cited complaints that the relief efforts were “disconnected from the reality outside of the U.N. compound.”

For Ban, Haiti may become yet another reason why the media and his detractors call him “Nowhere Man.” Since he began his term as secretary-general in 2007, he has been perceived as uncharismatic, ineffective and unwilling to reform the organization he runs.

Most recently, Ban’s office inspired controversy for a U.N. report alleging genocide by Rwandan military forces against ethnic Hutus between 1993 and 2003. An initial draft of the report was leaked to Le Monde last month. In comparison, the final version appeared to be toned down. Ban denied that a deal existed to “save face for any troop-contributing nations” — such as those supporting U.N. security initiatives in Africa. But analysts say the report is deeply flawed.

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The Rwanda report was not the first time in Ban’s tenure that the United Nations has been perceived as compromising its stance on a conflict. During the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war between the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lanka, the United Nations was suspected of withholding information about the true number of civilians killed or injured.

The secretary-general has even garnered criticism on issues that are reportedly close to his heart, such as global warming. Ban touted the December 2009 Copenhagen climate conference as the possible “turning point in the world’s efforts to prevent runaway climate change.” But it was widely panned as a fiasco. Some called it a “historic failure.”

Some of Ban’s fiercest critics have come from the U.N.’s own staff and from the diplomatic community. In August 2009, Mona Juul, a high-ranking Norwegian diplomat, referred to Ban as “spineless” and “charmless” in a leaked memo, and gave a litany of issues that she believed the secretary-general had failed to influence, from the cyclone in Myanmar to non-proliferation.

“In other ‘crises areas’ such as Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and not least the Congo, the secretary-general’s appeals, often irresolute and lacking in dedication, seem to fall on deaf ears,” Juul wrote.

Stinging as Juul’s remarks were, the worst came a year later when yet another memo was leaked, authored by Under Secretary General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services Inga-Britt Ahlenius. In her “end-of-assignment” report to Ban, Ahlenius called the secretary general’s actions “deplorable” and “reprehensible,” and said that the secretariat “now is in a process of decay.”

In Ban’s defense, acting deputy spokesperson for Ban, Farhan Haq, told GlobalPost that in regards to issues such as climate change and the Sri Lankan civil war, “it would be hard to find any leader in the world who has pushed harder on these issues than Ban Ki-moon.”

Criticisms of the U.N’s performance in Haiti after the quake, said Haq, are false.

“As for the compound, the main U.N. compound in Haiti was itself destroyed in the earthquake. The United Nations is hardly disconnected from the reality faced by Haitians, having itself lost 101 staff.”

Ban told the Guardian newspaper in July that he welcomes criticism but finds some of it unjust. “Sometimes I have found some of such criticism has been based on misunderstanding or not fully appreciating what kind of person I am and what my job requires me to do,” he said.

The question now is whether the man thought to have had the least influential tenure in the secretariat’s history will be given a second term next year. So far, speculation is that he will, based on the support of China and the United States, despite some rumored grumbling about his performance in Washington.

“The U.S. wanted an Asian who would be the complete opposite of Kofi Annan,” wrote Stanley Meisler, author of a biography of Kofi Annan, in an email to GlobalPost. “No one on the council put up much of a fight against this idea. So it’s pretty hard to carp now that they have a [secretary general] who is the complete opposite of Kofi.”

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