The food crisis has caused a lot of organizations to reevaluate their approach to food assistance. Moving further away from providing only short-term relief and investing in long-term agricultural development. Heifer International has been confronting hunger in more than 50 countries over the past 64 years, including Haiti. They adopted an innovative approach of "Passing on a Gift"-give an animal to a local family and they pass on the offspring to other families. Their projects in Haiti are definitely worth sharing.
Project Medishare has been operating on Haiti's Central Plateau since 1995. Working with community groups, the Haitian Ministry of Health, Partners in Health, and the Green Family Foundation, Project Medishare has dramatically improved the health infrastructure of Thomonde and sorrounding areas. Construction is proceeding on their latest and most innovative project - a Nutrition Training Complex with three components: (1) An AK-1000 processing facility; (2) A treatment center for malnourished children; and (3) An education and training center. This community-driven approach will promote children's health and bolster the local ecomomy at the same time.
Disagreements among parliamentarians and political parties over who will serve in the new government have prevented Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis from presenting a new Cabinet and policy priorities (one of which is food security) on Tuesday as scheduled. As politicians bicker, the people struggle. The Miami Herald notes that school starts on September 1st and the fees will be out of reach for many. According to the USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-NET), food security conditions are likely to deteroriate beginning in October due to the high prices of staple food crops, hurricanes, civil unrest, and high transportation costs. Having been four months without a functional government, it is long past time to make a deal and get to work.
After four months of debate, the Haitian Senate finally ratified a Prime Minister. Michèle Pierre-Louis becomes only the second female in Haitian history to hold the post. This delay has had a high cost in the form of delayed infrastructure projects, delayed trade deals, and underminded confidence as to whether the country is ready to open a new chapter on governance. The Miami Herald notes under Haiti's constitution, Pierre-Louis must next present a governance plan and cabinet selections to parliament. We hope food security features prominently in the proposed plan - her tenure will largely be evaluated on whether she can accomplish the delicate balancing act of putting in place short term measures while working on long term solutions.
Is the third time the charm? Prime Ministerial Candidate number three Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis was approved in a 61-1 vote in Haiti’s lower legislative chamber. Sexism, homophobia, and power politics could yet derail this nomination. Haiti needs a Prime Minister in order to have a functional government that can tackle developmental challenges, chief among them food insecurity.
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.
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.
Needless to say, a lot has happened in Haiti over the last few weeks. We saw food rioting in Port au Prince, Les Cayes, and Gonaives. Reuters has photos available here. Food insecurity and the rising cost of living were the primary (but probably not the only) factors. These tensions have been building up for quite some time and it is frustrating that the government did not intervene sooner. In the end, the Prime Minister was ousted and President Preval made an appeal to the international community for support. Now is a good time to review both what the Haitian government has done in response and which donors have stepped up to offer their support during this difficult time.