What a year. The soaring costs of food and fuel, political unrest, and natural disasters prevented any real progress toward food security. The international community tunes in and tunes out to Haiti’s struggle to feed itself. For now, there is attention. Two of the main tasks of the Haitian government and civil society in 2009 will be to begin reversing environmental degradation and reinvigorating the Haitian agricultural system. The challenges remain daunting, but are not insurmountable. There is much that we, as friends of Haiti, can do for a better year in 2009.
Matt recently uploaded a new set of photographs to the Haiti Innovation Flickr Account. These photos were taken during emergency operations where Haitian Red Cross volunteers and American Red Cross staff worked hand in hand throughout the country. Red Cross has considerably ramped up their programming over the past month. These photos give a sense of how profound the damage was in a way that may be impossible to convey through writing. Other non-profits may use photographs from this set provided that they credit Matthew Marek and Haiti Innovation.
By most accounts, the Haitian Government responded well to Gustav. The Haitian Ministry of Interior’s Office of Civil Protection (DPC) played an active role, gathering information and establishing shelters nationwide. However, Hanna overwhelmed the country's capacity and produced a national catastrophe that was exacerbated by Ike. The storms affected 600,000 people in nine of ten departments. Of them, the UN is reporting that 331 people have died and 70,000 people remain in shelters. Relief has been slow because of damaged infrastructure but it is arriving.
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.