The UN's role in Haiti's cholera outbreak and Michael Bloomberg's new gig: This week in development

By Michael Igoe 18 August 2016

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Photo by: Patrick Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority / CC BY

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a new job fighting non-communicable diseases, Malaysia’s 1MDB money laundering scandal prompts questions about Leonardo DiCaprio’s charity and a massive vaccination campaign ramps up to combat yellow fever. This week in development news.

For the first time, the U.N. acknowledged it played a role in a cholera outbreak that has killed thousands in Haiti, and is widely believed to have been brought to the island nation by U.N. peacekeepers in the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the international organization — while still not accepting any legal responsibility or agreeing to compensate Haiti’s affected individuals and communities — has responded to a confidential and highly-critical report from the human rights special rapporteur with assurances of a “significant new set of U.N. actions” in Haiti, presumably in support of cholera-affected populations. The “new response will be presented publicly within the next two months, once it has been fully elaborated, agreed with the Haitian authorities and discussed with member states,” according to the deputy spokesman for the secretary general Farhan Haq, as quoted in the Times.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon, meanwhile, weighed in on the race to elect his successor —  calling it “high time” the international organization is led by a woman, despite the fact that a male candidate, Portugal’s former Prime Minister António Guterres, is the current frontrunner. Five of the 11 candidates are women.

And the U.N. is launching an inquiry into the raid on The Terrain hotel complex on July 11 in Juba, South Sudan, where a journalist was killed and foreign aid workers were raped and beaten by soldiers. The inquiry will try to answer why U.N. peacekeepers at the U.N. mission in South Sudan did not respond to multiple requests for help from those under assault.

The World Health Organization is coordinating a massive vaccination campaign against yellow fever in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Working with 56 global partners, the organization will look to vaccinate roughly 14 million people in 8000 locations, making this one of the largest emergency vaccination campaigns ever attempted in Africa, according to the WHO. On Tuesday, the international charity Save the Children warned that vaccine shortages in yellow fever-affected countries in southern and central Africa could pave the way for the disease, a hemorrhagic virus spread by the same type of mosquito that carries the Zika virus, to spread worldwide. Nearly 500 people have died in Angola and the DRC from yellow fever since December.

Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, philanthropist, and speculative American presidential candidate, has a new job: the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases. NCDs and injuries together account for almost 80 percent of deaths worldwide, according to the WHO. Bloomberg, through Bloomberg Philanthropies and other organizations and initiatives, has been a long time crusader on NCD and injury issues, including his well-known efforts to achieve tighter tobacco control. In his ambassador role, Bloomberg will “work with national and local political leaders around the globe to highlight the burden of NCDs and injuries,” according to a WHO statement.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Oscar-winning actor’s eponymous charity, is under scrutiny due to its potential ties to a massive Malaysian money laundering scandal that has been the subject of an international investigation in recent months. According to the celebrity news outlet Page Six, civil fraud complaints allege that money funneled from Malaysia’s 1MDB development fund by financier Jho Low made its way to DiCaprio’s charity. As Devex reported, several other development organizations have accepted funding from Jho Low’s Jynwel Charitable Foundation, though the potential reverberations of those gifts are still unclear.

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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