Haiti Food Security Update (3/8/2009)

  • Posted on: 8 March 2009
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton will visit Haiti March 9-10 to promote international aid for Haiti.  According to UN Peacekeeping Chief Alain Le Roy, ''Clearly it's a fragile situation in Haiti.  There are still lots of difficulties but we think Haiti is winnable."  Also noteworthy is that a long awaited donor conference has been set for April 13-14 and will be chaired by the Inter American Development Bank. Expect food security to be an important part of these discussions.


The 2009 First Regular Session of the World Food Program (WFP) Executive Board was held in Rome from February 9-11, 2009.   Participants noted that in Latin America and the Caribbean, markets are not yet reflecting lower global food prices, nor are salaries reflecting inflation.  As in other parts of the world, women and children are suffering the most.  The region has been hit hard by declining global remittances, 48 percent of which are directed to countries in this region.  WFP stressed that social expenditures must increase in order to avoid chronic malnutrition.


Another issue which came up during the WFP meetings was the importance of local and regional food purchases.  At present, the United States provides most of its support to food insecure countries in the form of agricultural surplus.  American legislation requires that 50 percent of commodities be processed and packed in the US before shipment, and that 75 percent of food aid managed by USAID and 50 percent of the food aid managed by the US Department of Agriculture be transported in US-registered vessels.


If the sole metrics for measuring the success of US food assistance programs were speed and efficiency, we would come up short.  According to former head of USAID Andrew Natsios, a shift towards a mixed system of procuring food aid is the way to go for future policy.  Doing so could help meet the needs of vulnerable populations and build local/regional economies, which will help countries become more self-reliant over the long term.  We must consider how we can best help countries feed themselves.


Oxfam America and other American NGOs proposed a Roadmap to end Global Hunger, with a flexible approach to aid that would allow the use of cash transfers, vouchers, and a mix of local and US food purchases.  It will inform a piece of legislation soon to be introduced in the US House of Representatives. The Roadmap has the backing of the Friends of the World Food Programme and the US Fund for UNICEF (UN Children's Fund).


The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported that environmentally friendly ways of producing, handling and disposing of food would help the world keep up with the growing demand and boost food production.  More than half the food produced today is either lost, wasted or discarded because of inefficiency.  Recycling food waste and deploying new technologies - aimed at producing bio-fuels - could be a key environmentally friendly alternative to increased use of cereals for livestock, notes the report.


UNEP noted the need for a new Green Revolution as part of a new Global Green Economy.  Unless more intelligent and creative management is brought to the world's agricultural systems, UNEP cautioned that the global food crisis of 2008 could foreshadow an even bigger crisis. 

 According to UNEP, the 100-year trend of falling food prices may be over and food prices may increase by 30-50 percent within decades, severely impacting the very poor, who spend up to 90 percent of their income on food; up to 25 percent of global food production may be lost due to "environmental breakdowns" by 2050 unless action is taken; and, more than one-third of the world's cereals are being used as animal feed, expected to reach 50 percent by 2050, which could aggravate poverty and environmental degradation. 


The factors blamed for the global food crisis - drought, (food based) bio-fuels, high oil prices, low grain stocks and speculation in food stocks - could worsen significantly in coming decades.  Other recommendations for Africa, but equally valid for Haiti, included managing and better harvesting extreme rainfall and support for farmers who adopt more diversified and ecologically friendly systems.


According to the USAID supported Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET), a third of Haiti's population is food insecure, with the highest concentrations in areas where current harvests have been below normal, and where damage from last season's storms was most intense (e.g., Gonaives and Belle Anse).  Despite the be low-normal rainfall forecast for the coming season, a sustained decline in international food prices should mitigate food insecurity over the next few months.


However, the extended forecast for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins in June, suggests above normal hurricane activity this year.  In combination with the effects of the U.S. economic recession, severe storms could undermine food security and lead to increased assistance needs.


In total, an estimated three million Haitians are classified as food insecure, representing nearly a third of the country's population. The hardest hit areas lie mostly in the Northwestern, Artibonite, Southeastern, Nippes, and Grande Anse departments. With the large disparities in conditions within each area, municipalities currently regarded as generally food secure may include pockets of food insecurity or have high rates of child malnutrition.


Staple food prices are expected to decline steadily during the first half of 2009 despite the poor harvest, which is still in progress. This assumption is based mainly on the downward trend in international market prices for grain.  Under this scenario, the size of the food–insecure population would be scaled back slightly, from 3 million to approximately 2.8 million.


The worst case scenario is based mainly on the reports of localized landslides and flooding and the pattern of inadequate, unevenly distributed rainfall in May and June of last year (at the beginning of the hurricane season) and the global financial crisis erupting in the midst of an election campaign.  Under this scenario, the size of the food–insecure population would grow to approximately 3.1 million between April and June of this year.


Given the scale of current and expected future food insecurity problems in the first half of this year, recommendations are being made to the government (specifically to interested ministries) and its partners (donors, United Nations agencies and organizations, NGOs, and civil society organizations) for various interventions to continue to meet current needs and prevent the situation from escalating. These recommendations involve mounting agricultural revitalization and environmental protection, road infrastructure, water supply, sanitation, health, and nutrition programs, extending ongoing emergency programs, and strengthening programs designed to reduce the country's vulnerability to natural disasters.


With food–insecure households primarily in need of cash income to ensure adequate food access on local markets, these programs should focus mainly on labor–intensive activities in order to create as many jobs as possible. Improvements in the targeting of food–insecure areas and population groups, better synergy between the activities of different partners, and good coordination are also needed to ensure program efficiency and effectiveness.


The International Crisis Group released a report on Haiti's current and future challenges, well worth a read.  It notes that remittances received in January 2009 totaled USD 69 million, the lowest monthly amount since July 2007, a decrease of 35 percent compared to December 2008, and a 3 percent decrease compared to January 2008.  Food price increases, as high as 37% occurred, in Jeremie in Cap Haitian.  The July harvest of crops planted in March will present the first true indication of recovery from the tropical storms.  One third of the population will likely need food assistance, and WFP will remain the primary responder.  The report also noted that while the agricultural sector needs an infusion of funding, investments in infrastructure are needed to maximize gains.


The report also cited a need for improved cooperation between President Rene Preval, Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis and parliament in passing new legilation and a proposed $256.4 million, mostly donor-financed budget.  Failing to produce tangible results in the daily lives of the Haitian population (both inside and outside of Port au Prince) will create opportunities for spoilers such as drug traffickers, corrupt politicians, gangs and business owners who prefer a weak government.


Venezuela announced the future construction of 500 homes and two new airports, 15 agricultural projects in Artibonite and Centre departments, the opening of 10 medical centers (jointly with Cuban doctors), and has provided generators which increased electricity production in Port-au-Prince by 30 megawatts.  The European Union is granting 280 million Euros to Haiti in the next four years under the European Development Fund.  The grant specifically targets rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by the recent hurricanes. France will grant Haiti 2.5 million Euros as part of a food assistance program.  The WFP will manage the implementation.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) granted a new loan of USD 36.6 million to Haiti to assist with the global crisis and damage from hurricanes.  This loan brings the Haitian debt to the IMF to USD 170.9 million.  Haiti will qualify for HIPC debt relief by end of first half of 2009, provided they meet economic goals.  As indebted as Haiti has become under decades of dictatorship and economic mismanagement, debt relief is very important if Haiti is to address its highest priorities. 


Church World Service issued a press release concerning programs it is supporting to increase women's empowerment and food security at the same time.  This caught my interest as it is Haitian women who are holding the country together.   In Haiti's Nord-Oueste (Northwest) and Artibonite regions hundreds of women from 14 extremely poor communities are part of a network of rural cooperatives that are working together to create economic security and sustainable food sources for their families.  The effort is supported by Church World Service and operated by CWS Haitian partner Christian Center for Integrated Development (Sant Kretyen Pou Developman Entegre-SKDE)


These cooperatives are made up of neighbors who pool their resources in a community "bank" through which members save, borrow, store grain, share land and animals, learn to manage their land and money—and repay their micro-loans.  The co-op communities have progressed from individual income generating ventures at which some people barely made enough to send their children to school, to places where people can get co-op loans to expand homegrown businesses to the point that they generate adequate income to maintain households.  According to CWS, the women of these 14 cooperatives will continue to build their communities and empower themselves, in their own time, in their own way, until eventually they will be able to sustain themselves, without perpetual assistance from outsiders.


With the Ki-Moon/Clinton visit, the upcoming donor conference, and both harvest and hurricane seasons around the corner, this is an important time for Haiti.  As always, we will keep you updated.




Former President Bill Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005 to help make changes in the lives of the world's poor and destitute by partnering governments and nonprofit humanitarian organizations with those who can help. In Haiti, CGI has teamed up with Partners In Health, which works with AIDS patients and supports health programs in Haiti's Central Plateau region. Its founding director is Harvard University medical educator and infectious disease specialist Dr. Paul Farmer.

Among what CGI has helped facilitate on behalf of PIH, and the people living in the Central Plateau:

• The enrollment of 8,573 students this year, and daily school lunches for 9,793 students. The $3.4 million over three years is being also supported by Digicel, a cellphone company on the ground in Haiti.

• A review of the solar market in Haiti with support from Good Energies, and assessments of 10 of the public health facilities PIH runs in Haiti. Phase two will be installation of a major system at one PIH site. Estimated value: $150,000 over two years.

• The shipment of 20,000 pairs of rubber ankle boots from TOMS. They will go to patients in PIH clinics and members of the community who are at risk of getting the skin disease tungiasis. Shoes will also go to outfit community health workers who make daily visits to patients receiving HIV or Tuberculosis treatment. Another 30,000 pairs of shoes/boots from TOMS will be distributed by PIH later in the year.

• The distribution of 500,000 Pur water treatment sachets, donated by Proctor & Gamble, to families without access to clean water as a result of the hurricanes.

• The construction of a bridge. With support from Digicel and in cooperation with the U.N. Stabilization mission, MINUSTAH, PIH is moving ahead with plans to build a bridge to link the town of Boucan Carre, where PIH runs a public hospital and where there are two large schools, to the rest of the Central Plateau.

• The building ''back better'' of the health infrastructure in Mirebalais with support from Humanity United. PIH has purchased an ambulance and has solicited designs for a new public hospital in Mirebalais. Ministry of Health staff in Mirebalais is being supplemented

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (l) and Bill Clinton visit students at a school in Cite Soleil in Port-au-Prince, 09 Mar 2009
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton are in Haiti to highlight the importance of economic development to that country's stability. VOA's Margaret Besheer is traveling with the delegation and files this report from Port-au-Prince.

The U.N. chief and former U.S. president arrived in Port-au-Prince on Monday morning. They went directly to Cite Soleil - once Haiti's most violence-wracked slum. Its residents are caught in the grip of deep poverty.

The first stop was to a school feeding program where young children in cheerful red uniforms and little girls with matching red ribbons in their hair sang and played in the school yard. Inside one of the buildings, other children ate their lunch of rice, beans and meat.

Eighty percent of Haiti's population lives on less than $2 a day, making it the 14th poorest country in the world and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

Programs such as this World Food Program initiative to fight malnutrition are vital. Last year, it fed 2.5 million children across the country. This year, the WFP hopes to reach nearly three million. But the program is in jeopardy because the funding for it might fall short.

During their visit, Mr. Ban and Mr. Clinton also stressed the importance of education as a way out of poverty.

They went to the neighborhood of Turgeau, where they visited the Haitian Education and Leadership Program. This unique program awards scholarships to Haiti's best and brightest high school students, helping them go on to careers as doctors, engineers, agronomists, computer scientists and other professions vital to Haiti's prosperity.

The U.N. secretary-general said he was very impressed by the students' willingness to stay on in Haiti after graduation and called them the "hope of this country."

Mr. Ban, who is from South Korea, added that he felt a personal connection to the struggles of Haiti, saying it reminds him of his own country's struggles after the Korean War. But, he said, Korea has become an economic success story because of its educated workforce.

"I'm very proud to have been part of that process," said Ban Ki-moon. "Now serving as secretary-general of the United Nations, I feel immense responsibility to do more for those people, for those poor people. I'm working as a voice of so many voiceless people and defender of so many defenseless people. You are one of the voiceless people, you are one of the poorest people."

He said the good markets and stable countries nearby present an important opportunity for Haiti, but one that is not unlimited, and that it must overcome its difficulties and emerge as a stable, democratic and prosperous country.

Former President Clinton agreed and added that 200 years ago, Haiti was the richest island in all of the Caribbean region.

"Because of the natural resources, because of what God has put into the land, you can be again because of the resources in your mind and your heart," said Bill Clinton. "That is what you have been telling us today."

In April, international donors are expected to meet in Washington to help Haiti. But in light of the global financial crisis, it is unclear how strong that financial help will be.

Next month is also crucial for Haiti as it is scheduled to hold senatorial elections. But the country's Provisional Electoral Council has barred candidates from the party of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

By Patrick Worsnip

PORT-AU-PRINCE, March 9 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Haiti on Monday and urged the Caribbean state to use international backing to haul itself out of grinding poverty.

Ban and Clinton are on a mission to promote an anti-poverty action plan for the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Speaking to students at an educational center, the U.N. chief said Haiti had a "window of opportunity" because of the presence of a U.N. peacekeeping mission on its soil and because of the country's tariff-free access to the U.S. market.

"This window of opportunity is not unlimited. It is very limited. You must seize this opportunity," said Ban, who met later with President Rene Preval.

"That is why President Clinton and I are here personally to first of all demonstrate our solidarity and send a very strong message to the international community that we need Haiti to be able to emerge as a very stable, democratic and prosperous country in the region," he added.

The United Nations has some 9,000 peacekeepers in Haiti, which has long been afflicted by political instability and violence and was heavily damaged by hurricanes last year.

U.N. officials say the anti-poverty plan focuses on job creation, food security, reforestation of the almost treeless country and provision of basic services such as healthcare.

Clinton told the students that 200 years ago Haiti had been the richest part of the region because of its natural resources. "You can be again because of the resources in your mind and your heart," he said.

Clinton and Ban were visiting just over a month before Senate elections in Haiti, already controversial after the nation's biggest party, the Lavalas Family Party associated with exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was barred on a technicality.


As they visited, several thousand supporters of the party staged a demonstration to protest against its barring from the elections and to demand that U.S. President Barack Obama arrange Aristide's return to Haiti.

They waved banners which read "Ask Obama to return Aristide" and "There can be no election without Lavalas." There were no serious incidents and police carrying riot shields kept the protesters away from the presidential palace compound.

Aides to Ban said he had been encouraged to visit Haiti by a report he had received from Paul Collier, an academic at Britain's Oxford University.

The report said that despite its problems, Haiti was well-placed to recover because of the U.S. trade concessions it enjoyed, its proximity to the U.S. market and its low labor costs. It recommended focusing on developing the garment industry and growing mangoes as an export crop and to help reforest the nation, which suffers flash floods and erosion.

After talks with Preval, Ban warned in a statement that failure to act quickly could lead to a "disastrous slide backward." In a joint communique, the Haitian leader pledged to take measures to open up the country's economy to investment, but gave no details.

Accompanying Clinton was Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-born hip-hop star who heads a charitable foundation in Haiti.

A U.N. statement said Ban had asked Clinton to accompany him because of his attention to Haiti during his 1993-2001 presidency and a "call to action" on Haiti at a session of his Clinton Global Initiative foundation last September.

The hurricanes that hit Haiti in August and September were estimated to have killed some 800 people and caused $1 billion worth of damage.

The United Nations launched an appeal last September for $108 million for hurricane relief, but less than half of that amount had been pledged as of December. A high-level donor conference is scheduled for next month in Washington.

Immediately after Ban's visit, the U.N. Security Council will stage a three-day trip of its own to assess progress in Haiti and how the U.N. mission is fulfilling its mandate. (Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva; editing by Pascal Fletcher and Mohammad Zargham)

SHARING THE GRAIN: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had donated more than 14,000 tonnes of rice since 2003 and that more than 18,000 Haitians had benefited By Jenny W. Hsu STAFF REPORTER
Wednesday, Mar 11, 2009, Page 4

Taiwan is restructuring its program for donating grain to Haiti following a string of typhoons last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

The storms have raised concerns over domestic rice supply, said Joseph Kuo (郭永樑), head of the Department of Central and South American Affairs.

Kuo said that in collaboration with the Haitian government and international aid organization Food for the Poor (FFP), Taiwan has donated more than 14,000 tonnes of rice to the Caribbean country since 2003. More than 18,000 Haitians have benefited from the project, he said.

In the past, the annual donation from Taiwan was usually at least a few thousand tonnes.

“In 2007, there was a minor situation. We have to be mindful of the safety level of our national rice stock, which became insufficient because of [agricultural damage] brought on by a string of typhoons,” he said.

Although FFP has asked Taiwan to continue its usual donation, Kuo said that because of the severe damage caused by several typhoons last year, Taiwan is mulling whether to limit the size of its aid package to a maximum of 200 tonnes of rice on a case-by-case basis each time Port-au-Prince or FFP requests grain.

The Council of Agriculture will examine the situation before making a final decision, he said.

MOFA Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) later said the new policy aimed to protect and preserve the nation’s ability to provide enough rice to its own people, adding that Taiwan does not have a rice shortage.

In related news, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) yesterday received a medal from the Dominican Republic government for his years of contribution in promoting bilateral friendship between Santo Domingo and Taipei.

Ou also signed an agreement at the ceremony promising to boost the number of Taiwanese volunteers sent by the International Cooperation and Development Fund to serve in the Caribbean country.
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By Patrick Worsnip

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former US President Bill Clinton on Tuesday unveiled a string of social and economic changes they said were needed for Haiti to pull itself out of poverty.

The two men said they were impressed by Haiti's growth potential after a 24-hour visit and urged its government to quickly exploit favorable terms of trade with the United States and the stabilizing presence of some 9,000 UN peacekeepers.

Former US president Bill Clinton (L) and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (R) arrive for a food distribution event in the Cite Soleil slum of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. AFP PHOTO "They need to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian national police, they should improve the correctional facilities, they should have better government structures which can function better and they should do more on social-economic development," Ban said at a news conference.

He added that the Caribbean nation, the Western hemisphere's poorest and one plagued by a history of violence and political unrest, had made progress in restoring peace and stability but must do more to attract investment.

Riots sparked by skyrocketing food prices led to the ouster last year of Haiti's government.

Low labour costs, proximity to the United States and Canada and the duty-free access it will enjoy in the US market for the next nine years could underpin future economic growth, Ban said.

But he and Clinton saw evidence of Haiti's political problems when protesters demanded the return of deposed former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the reinstatement of the Lavalas Family Party.

Aristide, who formed the party in 1996, went into exile after he was removed from office in a 2004 rebellion.

The party was barred from Senate elections next month on a technicality, raising fears results would be tainted. On Monday a judge ordered election supervisors to put its candidates on the April 19 ballot if they qualified individually.

Both Clinton, who is trying to help Haiti through his Clinton Global Initiative foundation, and Ban said lowering the cost of doing business through reduced commercial rents and lower energy prices would create more jobs in the nation.

They stressed that point after touring a garment factory that makes T-shirts in the capital Port-au-Prince. Textiles are a potential major growth sector for Haiti, according to Ban.

Clinton said he was told the factory had 3,000 employees but could easily employ 10,000 if the cost of power was cut.

The former US president said he believed burning waste products could produce extra energy and reduce costs and that he planned to send experts to Haiti to investigate.

Clinton also said President Rene Preval's government should take measures to reduce the potential damage from future storms. Haiti lost some 800 lives and suffered an estimated $1 billion when four hurricanes pounded the nation last year.

In a joint communique issued on Monday, Preval promised legislation and other measures to encourage investment and create jobs but gave no details.

A donors' conference will be held in Washington in mid-April.

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