Below is an update concerning food security in Haiti. First though, I read an interesting article in the Miami Herald about the critical role of coordination in Haiti relief efforts. In fact, it notes that an uncoordinated flow of aid can cause harm, particular in a setting like Haiti where food is plentiful on store shelves but most people can't afford it because of high unemployment and global price hikes. The best way to help Haiti right now is to contribute to both the organizations that can make a difference now and those that can help Haiti become self-reliant over the long-term.
Today is, of course, Mother's Day. In too many parts of the world, becoming a mother is a serious threat to one's health. Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl of Partners in Health remind us in the Washington Post that it doesn't have to be this way. We have the knowledge needed to protect pregnant women and their children. What is lacking is the will and the committment. Drawing from their experiences in Haiti, Partners in Health is applying their rights based approach in Rwanda and elsewhere. The article is copied below.
Jule Hanus from the Art of Living Foundation sent us a video clip featuring a Youth Leadership Training Program which incorporates music, dance, yoga, and environmental preservation. Take a look at it by clicking here. Even when the Haitian government (someday) releases a strategy and appeals for funds to support nationwide reforestation communities will do the heavy lifting. In a country, where almost half the population is under fifteen years of age, there are many opportunities to involve the young in reforestation.
I am neither an agronomist or an energy specialist. But I always have my eyes open for new innovations which could help Haiti achieve either food security or energy independence. Recently, I received an email from The National Algae Association (NAA) annoucing that it would be bringing together Algae oil production companies, algae researchers and "algaeprenuers" together for a conference on June 17th in Woodlands, Texas. The private sector seems to think algae has potential as a biofuel - Chevron, Honeywell, and Boeing all have some involvement in algae businesses. But is it feasible in Haiti?
In one of Bourik’s latest hoofs to the Northeast of Haiti he ran into an old friend, 8 year old Trou du Nord heavy, Beterson. While sitting outside the hitching post, observing the normal street commotion Bourik felt a looming presence.
Our friends at Current sent us a link to a piece concerning a town in the Upper Central Plateau of Haiti called Pignon. Pignon is an isolated community best known for its regional hospital. The road leading to Pignon is one of the worst in Haiti - The last time I was on it, the pickup truck literally tipped over. But even in the most difficult locations, when a community comes together, it can accomplish amazing things.
Copied below is a brief article in the Boston Globe written by Dr. Joia Mukherjee and Donna Barry, both of whom work for the Institute for Health and Social Justice at Partners In Health. Though short, the article cuts through many of the cliches we've seen so far on hunger in Haiti. The piece covers the long term historical reasons for food security, which is by no means new. It also notes how food "assistance" can cause more harm than good and the burden of Haiti's debt on this struggling, young democracy. With minimal tourism or industry, Haiti need its agricultural sector more than ever. But will developed countries let Haiti compete? A level playing field would be more important than any hand out for Haiti's long term development.
With an Agronomist for a President and now an Economist for a Prime Minster, we hope that the Haitian government will address the food crisis head on. The Government will need to articulate short term measures and a long term plan to the Haitian public, to donors, and the international community. Preval has spent a great deal of time talking about national production - but this will not be possible without halting and reversing envrinmental degradation. Fortunately, Haiti continues to draw support from major donors. This will allow the government some time to establish new policies and programs.
A press release by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced the next phase of Haiti's largest vaccination campaign ever. According to PAHO, Haiti has the worst health indicators of any country in the Americas, including the highest rates of infant mortality and lowest rates of childhood immunization. This campaign will go a long way towards changing that. As Wyclef states in the Public Service Announcements that kicked off the campaign, "To vaccinate a child is an act of love".
In response to queries from readers, the first "How Can I Help" blog was devoted to volunteering. With increasing food insecurity in Haiti, we have received many inquiries from caring people who want to do their part to improve the situation. Many have offered to hold food drives - but Haiti is in this situation because it does not grow enough food and has depended on importation for far too long. Your support will go farther if, instead of sending food, you make a contribution to an organization that is already on the ground in Haiti. Below are organizations that are fighting hunger in Haiti and are reputable and effective. With your support, they can reach more people.