Security and food security go hand in hand in countries like Haiti that are dependent on importation for survival. President Rene Preval announced a 15 percent cut in rice prices and a series of measures to uphold national food production namely by providing subsidies, credit and technical assistance to farmers. Rice exports are banned. However, Haitians cannot survive on rice alone. Corn, beans, oil, etc. all remain expensive. The President has yet to appoint a Prime Minister who can assemble a new Cabinet. We hope, whoever he or she is, the new Prime Minister will take food security seriously and communicate often with the public about what is doing to reduce food costs and improve national production. This should have been a priority long ago.
Don't forget - Mother's Day is Sunday, May 11th. Project Medishare has released a special Mother's Day Appeal to complete their innovative program to treat malnourished children with locally grown ingredients. Once established in Thomonde, Project Medishare wants to expand their coverage throughout the entire Central Plateau. You can make a special donation in your mother's name to Project Medishare this year, helping to make sure that Haitian mothers are able to keep their children nourished and healthy.
Malnutrition is a threat to health but it is treatable. The cure is the appropriate kind of food. There is no reason why children should die either from malnutrition or infectious diseases they are vulnerable to because malnourishment has weakened their immune systems. Earlier we wrote about Plumpynut, a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food that has revolutionized the way we treat malnourished children - and saved many of their lives in the process. Current sent us a video about Meds and Foods for Kids, organization in Cap Haitian that decided to make their own version of Plumpynut from local ingredients. They have been very successful and now the World Bank is supporting them to provide "Medika Mamba" nationwide. It is an innovative idea that is now having a nationwide impact.
Haiti Innovation expressed disappointment and irritation with last week's New York Times article describing a solution to Haiti's hunger. Today, circulating through blogs all over cyber space, human rights lawyer Bill Quigley released a compelling report: "America's Role in Haiti's Hunger Riots". He goes beyond the trite phrases describing Haiti and delves into the truth behind high food costs. So although Haiti "needs to better feed itself", countries such as the US need to allow this to happen. Mr. Quigley raises the question, "Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?".
Last week, the New York Times ran an article about the relationship between hunger and insecurity, with considerable attention given to Haiti. It notes the food rioting, the mud cookies, and the desperation that comes from not being able to feed onself and one's family. Hunger is not new to Haiti. While this article has raised awareness about hunger in Haiti, it does not go into why or offer up solutions which is unfortunate.
Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), spoke this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on “The Silent Tsunami" of hunger that threatens to push 100,000,000 more individuals into extreme poverty. You can imagine that Haiti came up several times during her presentation. Haitians are resilient people but soaring costs of food prices (and the subsequent increase in percentage of household income spent on food) is pushing people to their limits. As Ms. Sheeran noted, “The difference between civilization and anarchy is seven meals.” Hunger is a global problem and we do not have the option of not responding.
If you visit the webpage of the World Food Programme (WFP), you'll see an appeal for funds with which to assist Haiti is on the front page. We have a very serious problem in Haiti and the WFP knows it. Food insecurity brings political instability and the inevitable protests that are taking place in Port au Prince. Rural Haiti will feel the reverbations. It would not be realistic to expect WFP to feed all of Haiti. However, if the agency receives the funds it needs, it can ensure the most vulnerable individuals and communities are assisted.
I expected to hear of food riots in Haiti. Life has never been easy for Haitians but escalating food costs have made just getting by more and more difficult. If you and I went a day without eating and did not know if the next day let alone the next week would bring more of the same, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading this - we would be out in the streets protesting!
Haitians are no strangers to hunger. Yet, the past six months of rising food and fuel costs has hit the country hard. But Haiti is not alone. Citizens of other countries are being squeezed as well. Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mexico, Mozambique, Senegal, Argentina, Peru, and Indonesia have all seen protests over rising food costs. Those who were struggling but making ends meet have found themselves spending more and more of their household income on food (and by extension less in other areas such as education.) Will our children and grandchildren inherit a hungrier world? If so, their world will be less democatic, more instable, and more dangerous.
Though we are all different, we have this in common - we must eat to survive. In an ideal world, individuals, families, communities, and countries would be able to feed themselves. Needless to say, the world is less than ideal. For the poorest of the poor, climate change, population growth, environmental degradation and soaring food prices make feeding oneself increasingly difficult. The World Food Programme (WFP) plays a vital role in ensuring that vulnerable populations, including those affected by disaster and conflict, receive the food they need, in Haiti and worldwide.