Three years ago on Saturday the western hemisphere experienced the worst natural disaster in recent memory when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the heart of Haiti. Over 200,000 people were killed. A massive humanitarian disaster — and a massive international response ensued.
I recently caught up with the head of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Lasdous. In the conversation below, Mr. Lasdous discusses some of the hotspots in which peackeeping is currently engaged–or may engage in the future.
Americans should start paying attention to this budding crisis, and soon. The United States has dispatched its military to Haiti three times in the past 15 years. Unless this humanitarian emergency is nipped in the bud, we can expect a political crisis to explode.
Haiti was spared a direct hit by Sandy, but the damage, death, and displacement caused by the storm is much, much worse than anywhere else on the planet right now.
The wealthiest city in the most powerful country on the planet is poised to get hit by an epic storm. Things will be bad, but the city of New York and the federal government of the United States has the capacity and wherewithall to manage this crisis. But what happens when a storm or natural disaster of equally destructive magnitude hits a place that does not have that same ability to deal with a natural disaster?
Here in the USA, Isaac has mostly been met with chortles (from Democrats) about how the storm may disrupt the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida next week. But this is a storm to be taken very seriously. It has all the markings of a an impending humanitarian catastrophe.
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.