After four hurricanes, Haiti faces famine
Published Sep 28, 2008 8:50 PM
Haiti started the month of August as the poorest country by far in the Western
Hemisphere. Then four hurricanes—Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike—hit the
country, doing vast and unmeasured damage to its roads and bridges, housing,
economy, crops and crop land, schools and hospitals.
The country that already had the least now has much less.
A map on Relief Web, a United Nations service, summarizes the homeless,
missing, dead and injured in Haiti. Only one of Haiti’s 10
provinces—the North East—was spared significant damage.
The figures on the number of dead are far too low. The Haitian government has
stopped counting in order to concentrate on repairing roads and bridges, so it
can get food and water to the 900,000 people who have nothing left except the
clothes on their bodies.
MINUSTAH, the U.N. forces that began occupying Haiti after the coup in 2004
against President Jean Bertrand Aristide—a coup financed and organized by
the U.S.—distributed 2,852,300 meals and 21,710 liters of drinkable water
to refugees in Gonaïves from Sept. 5 to Sept. 20. Along with aid from the
World Food Program and NGOs, this has kept people from dying of famine.
But it is not nearly enough. Gonaïves is believed to have 200,000
refugees. The city has been inundated by mud from the surrounding mountains.
The donated food amounts to slightly less than one meal per person a day.
In Bainet, a small city on the southern coast between Côte-de-Fer and
Jacmel, the situation is also catastrophic. Its deputy in parliament, Malherbe
François, told the Haitian press, “We have registered 37,989
families affected by these storms. But nine rural communities, which are part
of our district, aren’t able to make contact with the city.” So the
Haitian government doesn’t really know how many people need aid.
If Haiti doesn’t get substantial and immediate foreign aid, thousands of
Haitians could die.
However, Haïtí-Progrès in its Sept. 17-23 edition says the U.N.
aid being given comes from a need “to stifle the anger of the people, not
from humanitarianism.” Haïtí-Liberté points out that a lot
of this aid is being used to compensate the Haitian bourgeoisie for its losses,
rather than for the needs of the people.
In addition, the Swiss News Service reported Sept. 19 that the U.N. has
received only 2 percent of the $108 million it had requested to aid
Beyond the immediate threat of famine, Haiti needs to reforest its land so that
rain from storms doesn’t produce mudslides, which killed many in the past
Haiti’s plant cover is estimated at less than 2 percent. The recent heavy
downpours led to severe flooding much worse than in the neighboring Dominican
Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. In the Dominican
Republic, plant cover is estimated at 30 percent and far fewer people died.
Haitian Environment Minister Jean-Marie Claude Germain said this process of
deforestation dates back to the country’s independence. Intense
neocolonial exploitation by France so impoverished the people that the only
fuel they could use for cooking was and is charcoal, often sold by the handful.
When the U.S. became the neocolonial master of the Caribbean, it maintained and
strengthened France’s policies. President Aristide was demanding $20
billion in reparations from France before he was kidnapped from the country by
Two Haitian organizations in the New York area are collecting funds and medical
supplies for use by Cuban doctors in Haiti. Volunteer Cuban personnel provide
most of what medical care Haitians get.
Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees is accepting donations and funds at 35 Maple
St., 2nd floor, Brooklyn, Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. For
more information, call 718-735-4660. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to
IFCO/Haitian Relief, 418 W. 145th St., New York, NY 10031.
The Haitian Coalition to Support the Struggle in Haiti (Kakola) is also
collecting funds. Checks should be payable to Komite Chalo Jaklen Inc. and sent
to KAKOLA, P.O. Box 250459, Brooklyn, NY 11225. For more information, call
718-629-4050. Members of both HWHR and Kakola will take the aid collected
directly to Haiti.
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