Guy Adams: A battle that was lost on the streets


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The Independent Online

In the frantic aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, you heard a similar refrain across Port-au-Prince: where on earth, most Haitians were asking, is the UN when you actually need it?

Though news reports claimed a "massive" UN aid effort was under way, a very different reality prevailed on the streets. It wasn't until 18 January, six days after the disaster, that I began seeing peacekeepers leave their compounds.

Even then, most were driving around in armoured vehicles, brandishing guns, rather than delivering food and water. This helped spark a mutual distrust between Haitians and the UN which was further inflamed by the cholera outbreak.

In fairness to the UN, scores of peacekeepers were killed when their headquarters in Port-au-Prince collapsed, including the head of their mission. A degree of shock was therefore understandable. But peacekeeping can be all about PR, and in Haiti, that's a battle the UN needs to start winning.