The American Public Health Association holds its Annual Meeting October 29-November 2 for over 13,000 members. Blog editors and other anti-racist public health workers will support 2 resolutions on police violence and cholera in Haiti. If you belong to APHA, come to the hearing on Sunday, October 30 from 3:30 to 6:00 in the Convention Center.
Here are some excerpts:
United Nations’ Accountability for its Role in the Haitian Cholera Epidemic
Decades of neglect of water and sanitation infrastructure have left the Haitian population vulnerable to outbreaks of waterborne illness. Despite the vulnerability of the population, United Nations’ forces (troops of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH) failed to take adequate precautions with their sewage, allowing human waste infected with cholera to contaminate the Haitian water supply. Since the cholera outbreak began in Haiti in October 2010, there have been at least 9,229 deaths and 789,242 Haitians infected (more than 1 in 16 citizens), as of August 27, 2016. Given the role played by United Nations’ (UN) troops in the Haitian cholera epidemic, the APHA urges the UN to take leadership in guaranteeing that the National Plan for the Elimination of Cholera in Haiti (National Plan) is properly funded. The United Nations’ own special rapporteur released a report in August of 2016 urging the secretary-general to take responsibility for the introduction of cholera in Haiti and advising the UN to make financial restitution for this mistake. Following this report, the spokesperson for the UN secretary-general acknowledged the UN’s role in causing the cholera epidemic, however there has been no commitment on the part of the UN to take financial responsibility for the crisis. Without a long-term plan for building a national water and sanitation system, Haiti will remain vulnerable to cholera outbreaks annually during the rainy season and whenever a natural disaster occurs. Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, has already led to a surge in cases—more than 1400 new infections in the 2 weeks immediately after the Hurricane.
Police Violence as a Public Health Issue
Harassment and violence by law enforcement officers result in deaths, injuries, trauma and stress, which disproportionately affect people of color and other marginalized populations including immigrants, homeless individuals, members of the LGBT communities, and individuals with mental illness. Officers are rarely held accountable for acts of violence and harassment for several reasons, including an insular police culture, laws that interfere with investigation and prosecution around misconduct (e.g. Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights), and insufficient civilian oversight. Numerous laws and policies have the effect of promoting and intensifying harassment and violence towards specific populations by police, including those associated the “war on drugs,” criminalization of sex work and of behaviors associated with homelessness such as loitering, and anti-immigrant legislation. While some argue that rates of violence and harassment can be reduced by implementing strategies such as community-based policing or through technological tools such as body- or dashboard-mounted cameras and conducted electrical weapons (CEWs), limited evidence supports the effectiveness of these approaches. Instead, a public health strategy for preventing police violence and harassment should include four main elements: decriminalization, robust police accountability measures, increased investment in policies promoting racial and economic equity, and community-based alternatives for addressing harms and preventing violence and crime, such as community-run restorative justice and violence intervention programs.