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United Nations Prepares to Send Envoys to Detroit as Residents Decry Human Rights Violations

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The Great Recession marked a turning point for a lot of cities across the United States. For Detroit, the economic downturn served as the final nail in the coffin of the once-great city. The government bailout managed to prop up the American automakers who still called the city home, but by 2013, as USA Today reports, Detroit could no longer survive on its traditional industry alone. In July of that year, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

To say that Detroit and its residents have struggled for the last year and a half would be a massive understatement. The formerly proud metropolis has been deadened with ever expanding blight and an unemployment rate that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics puts at 17.7%. As if that’s not bad enough, Detroiters now accuse the city of human rights violations, as the city has been shutting down water connections to save money and avoid potential health problems. In response, the United Nations is now prepping a team of human rights experts to head into the fallen city, both to assess the validity of the claims and to try and solve the ongoing water crisis.

Water Problems Disproportionately Affect Low-Income Detroiters

At the beginning of October, Lansing State Journal reported on a Detroit café that was relying on water taken directly from a fire hydrant to keep its doors open. The city had shut off the connection to the area of the city where the coffeehouse is located. The series of jury-rigged hoses pumping the water from the fire hydrant outside into the café were, surprisingly, not set up by the proprietor, but by the City of Detroit.

Deadline Detroit reports that the city announced at the beginning of the month that a number of water connections would be shut down, as the city pushed to fix a water main that was leaking high volumes of water. Detroit officials, already struggling to find cash for a slew of necessary infrastructural improvements, made the decision to close the connections to save the city money and to avoid public health issues. Mold, which can cause a range of health problems , from allergies to asthma, was just one of the threats the city hoped to avoid.

When the UN team arrives in Detroit on October 18, it’s said that the first move will be to assess how bad the city’s problems truly are, specifically in how they affect the city’s low-income population. Thousands of Detroiters have lost access to water, both as a result of inability to pay and the city cutting off access as part of the ongoing repairs. The UN investigators are charged with ascertaining whether or not public outcry that the issue is a human rights violation disproportionately affecting low-income Detroiters is valid. From there, the team is expected to release a report summarizing their findings and recommendations to the City of Detroit.

Do you think the United Nations should step in to help solve Detroit’s water crisis? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.

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