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.
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.
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.
It is not easy to find a library in Haiti. The Fondation Connaissance & Liberté (FOKAL) wants to change that. FOKAL supports 35 community libraries throughout Haiti. FOKAL also supports arts and culture programming, a debate program, grassroots initiatives, a preschool program and even water projects. FOKAL staff will speak at the Library of Congress in Washington DC on June 10th. If you do not live in the Washington DC area, you can catch the live webcast. In the meantime,take a look at their website to learn more about this organiztion. Education is fundamental to solving Haiti’s economic, environmental, and health related challenges.
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?".
A colleague of mine worked in Dhaka for several years, a city infinitely more crowded than Port au Prince. Yet, Dhaka is much cleaner. In Port au Prince, plastic bottles and trash clog the waterways creating a flooding hazard and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit diseases. It is a great place to be a goat but a hard place to be a human being. What is the difference between Dhaka and Port au Prince? Bangladesh has recycling plants while Haiti does not.
Thought you might enjoy reading a Boston Globe piece about progress being made by Partners in Health in Rwanda. It really is an inspiring story. Rwanda was torn apart during the Genocide, but is coming together again. Health is clearly playing an important role in the reconciliation process. Working closely with the Clinton Foundation, the Government of Rwanda, and a large team of dedicated communicate health workers, there are making a real difference with the knowledge and experience they gained in their +20 years of experience in Haiti.