Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Was Happy Because We Did Not Die

As I sit in the front yard of the orphanage we founded in 2002, surrounded by our twelve laughing children, combing my strange hair, touching my funny legs, comparing their tiny hands to my giant ones, I wonder how I can quantify the electric pulses of love flowing from these kids? How do you measure happiness in orphaned children? By their smiles? By their appetites? By their school grades?

In July we moved our children from the gritty city of Gonaives destroyed by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 to the city of Jacmel, home of French colonial architecture, surrounded by lush mountains, and sitting on a beautiful bay.
Our home in Gonaives was always dusty, the city and countryside deforested and now desert-like. It is the inability of the land there to absorb rain and run-off from the mountains that leads to regular catastrophe. Our home in Gonaives collapsed during Hurricane Hannah eight weeks after we left.

Our children, many orphaned by Hurricane Jeanne, realize they escaped their own deaths by moving with us to Jacmel. They realize that they live in a home that flood waters will not touch, nor high winds blow away.

Our kids today have enormous smiles – bigger than I have ever seen them before. They have access in Jacmel to more food then they have ever seen in their lives and they are eating double portions three meals a day. Not to mention their academic scores have soared.

This is not to say they do not remember the hard times in Gonaives, or that psychological damage suffered there will not be hard for them to overcome.
Seven year old Jean told me yesterday, “If we had stayed, we would have died.” Twelve year-old Samson remembers from Hurricane Jeanne, “Cars and dead bodies floating by.” [Bernadine] age nine, remembers climbing to her roof to survive. “I was happy last week because we did not die,” she confided quietly to me.

The children of Orphans International in Jacmel are as strong as the people of Haiti themselves. No where in the world is there stronger people. Independent for over two hundred years – the first successful slave revolt which finally sent their masters packing – has left a host of leaders and outside powers who have in effect re-enslaved Haiti’s population, creating poverty and violence generation after generation. Any Haitian whose family has survived the endemic violence is strong by definition. Pride follows strength.

We are raising our little Haitians to be global citizens. This international outlook, coupled with the strength of Haitians, will make them proud players on a world playing field. Through their own natural strength, coupled with opportunities we are providing to them, our children shall overcome any obstacles.

I thank our enormously dedicated staff, lead by Jacques Africot and Doris Chernik, Ph.D., and our numerous child sponsors, including H.S.H. Prince Albert of Monaco, Sovereign Prince. This team of committed individuals help the dreams of Orphans International become reality. And allow the nightmares of our children to become their own dreams of Haiti’s future.

- Jim Luce, September 10, Cyvadier Village, Jacmel, South East Province, Haiti

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Haiti hurricane update

Haiti floods
Al Jazeera News

Hundreds of people in Haiti have moved to higher ground, leaving the town of Gonaives steeped in flood water. Many are going without food and shelter.

Hurricane Ike threatens to disrupt relief effort. Some residents climbed on top of cars to reach the second floor of their homes, where they had piled up furniture and spread sheets to provide shade, Holly Inurreta, from Catholic Relief Services, said. Tropical Storm Hanna left hundreds of people dead and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.

Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gonaives, said: "This storm has already worsened what already was a critical situation ... and there could be mudslides."

Locals are "blaming the government and the United Nations because they have not eaten anything for days," she said.

Bo said further rain is making rescue operations even more difficult.

Hell on earth

In Gonaives, UN peacekeepers and aid workers are delivering high-energy biscuits and water to storm survivors, many of whom have not eaten since Monday.

"What I saw in this city today is close to hell on earth," Hedi Annabi, a UN envoy, said.

Everton Fox, Al Jazeera's meteorologist said: "Ike is making its way away from The Turks and Caicos islands pretty quickly.

"It is moving at about 25km per hour and will steadily head towards Cuba in a direct hit."

Fox said the storm will hit Cuba "strongly" but is then expected to "slow down significantly and become a category one hurricane by the time it leaves the country.

Due to a huge amount of rainfall in Cuba "there will be landslides, flash flooding and widespread devastation," he predicted.

'Hell on earth'

Dozens of children raised their hands and ran after UN food trucks that rumbled through the damp streets of Gonaives. "Hungry! Hungry!" they yelled.

Food also was brought to hungry inmates at the local jail.

The water in many neighborhoods has receded from about three metres high to about knee deep, but at least 40,000 people remain in emergency shelters.

However, the death toll in Gonaives has been reduced after Ernst Dorfeuille, the police commissioner for the city, told the Associated Press that a news report the previous evening that quoted him as saying 495 bodies had been found in Gonaives following Tropical Storm Hanna was completely wrong.

He said there were 32 confirmed deaths in this city on Haiti's west coast from the storm that hit on Monday.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Note from OI America Director, Linda Stanley

OIWW kids are safe but terrorized by 90 MPH winds, driving rains and flooding: Reports are that our kids are safe in their new home near Jacmel, where trees have crashed in several houses around them. Food is hard to get and very expensive, Jim Luce is going there next Tuesday, and American Airlines has allowed him to take 5 suitcases of aid items.

The reports below are about the town, Gonaives, where the kids lived until July of this year. Their extended family & friends and school mates are there. Since our kids lost their own parents in just such a flood 4 years ago, the anxiety is terrible for them.

More money is needed for our Haiti project.. and we may need to see what extra we can give to their school, etc. All OI Haiti really has right now is 7 used donated laptop computers (the first one's the children have ever had access to) some clothes, vitamins, some surge protectors, school supplies and a sun oven. Money is needed for a generator and food.(There is rampant inflation all over Haiti in basic food items: rice, beans, everything. If any of you have any ideas for some simple, individual fundraisers we are interested. Individuals can help by going to and sponsoring a child for $50. a month, that always helps. Thank you.

Linda Stanley
Executive Director
Orphans International Executive Director

Rescuers can't get aid to starving Haitian city

GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) - The convoy rumbled out of the U.N. base toward a flooded, starving and seething city Thursday, carrying some of the first food aid since Tropical Storm Hanna killed 137 Haitians and drowned Gonaives in muddy water three days ago.

Hungry children at three orphanages were waiting for the canvas-topped trucks, loaded with warm pots of rice and beans and towing giant tanks of drinking water.

The trucks didn't make it.

The convoy crept over mud-caked, semi-paved roads past closed stores, overturned buses and women wading in water up to their knees with plastic tubs on their heads.

After about 45 minutes, the half-dozen trucks ground to a halt. U.N. peacekeepers wearing camouflage fatigues and bulletproof vests jumped out while others stood guard with assault rifles.

Before them, a huge gouge marred the road. The floods had split the asphalt, and water ran through the 10-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) gap.

The convoy turned around. And the children — like tens of thousands more in this increasingly desperate city — went another day without food.

Later, Argentine U.N. troops stopped to dish out cooked rice from their own food supplies to a small crowd of hungry orphans.

"I haven't eaten since Monday," 12-year-old Srita Omiscar said as she waited in line with about 50 others.

Just a few blocks away, a woman's corpse in a floral dress floated in a submerged intersection.

At least 137 people died when Hanna struck Haiti, 102 of them in Gonaives and its surroundings, officials said. Some 250,000 people are affected in the Gonaives region and 54,000 people are living shelters across the country, according to government estimates. Argentine Capt. Sergio Hoj estimated that half of Gonaives' houses remained flooded Thursday.

Many houses were torn apart. Families huddled on rooftops, their possessions laid out to dry. Overturned cars were everywhere, and televisions floated in the brown water.

Gonaives — a collection of concrete buildings, run-down shacks and plazas with dilapidated fountains — lies in a flat river plain between the ocean and deforested mountains that run with mud even in light rains. Hanna swirled over Haiti for four days, dumping vast amounts of water, blowing down fruit trees and ruining stores of food as it swamped tin-roofed houses.

Hanna finally moved north Thursday with near hurricane-force winds on a path toward the southeastern U.S. coast. But in the chaos there was no way to know how many people might be dead, or how many had been driven from their homes. Two other storms killed 85 people in August, and forecasters warned that fearsome Hurricane Ike could hit Haiti next week.

Haiti's government has few resources to help. Rescue convoys have been blocked by floodwaters, although the U.N. World Food Program said Thursday it was sending a food-laden boat to Gonaives from the capital, Port-au-Prince, and would set up a base in the stricken city.

"All roads able to access Gonaives are cut either by bridges that have collapsed, by trees that have fallen down, or by waters that have washed away parts of the streets," U.N. food agency representative Myrta Kaulard said.

She said the U.N. peacekeeping mission was also hoping that its helicopters could take more U.N. personnel along to begin handing out aid, which includes 19 tons of biscuits, 50 tons of water, and water purification tablets.

In the capital, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mari Tolliver said $250,000 in relief supplies arrived in Haiti Thursday, including jugs of drinking water, and would be sent to Gonaives by boat or plane.

"The idea is to get it there within the next day or two. Every effort is being made," she said, adding that another $100,000 will be used to buy bedding, kitchen items and other goods for victims.

"The situation in Gonaives is catastrophic," Daniel Rouzier, Haiti chairman of Food for the Poor, wrote in an e-mail. "We, just like the rest of the victims ... have limited mobility. You can't float a boat, drive a truck or fly anything to the victims."

Anger and frustration were growing at the inability or unwillingness of the government and the international community to help.

"If they don't have food, it can be dangerous," warned Sen. Youri Latortue, who flew in by helicopter. "They can't wait."

Dozens of people gathered around the gates of the U.N. base. Some children climbed cinderblock walls topped by barbed wire to ask soldiers inside for food. Edgy U.N. peacekeepers went on a heightened state of alert, and have traded their floppy hats for helmets.

Ad Melkert, associate administrator of the U.N. Development Program who just returned from Haiti, admonished international donors to do more.

"The poverty in the rain and mud of Haiti that I witnessed is nothing less than a disgrace," he said. "Many actors or potential actors try to play their part, ranging from the national government to multilateral and bilateral donors and NGOS. They all need to do more and better."

The few aid-group representatives in Gonaives did what they could — but knew it wasn't enough.

A local coordinator for the Florida-based Food for the Poor charity sailed through the flooded streets in a 22-foot fishing boat and picked up survivors, including two men struggling to keep afloat.

"The whole town is destroyed," Bernard Chauvet told The Associated Press over his cell phone as he headed for dry land, his boat jammed with 22 people including a pregnant woman and several crying children.

"These people lost everything," he said. "They have no water, no food. It is very bad."

Up to 400 people huddled in the Roman Catholic Church and the residence of Bishop Yves-Marie Pean, turning it into a de facto refugee camp. Many camped out on the watery grounds, while the lucky ones rested on chapel pews.

"We have shared with them what we had, but now we don't have food or drinking water," Pean said by telephone. "What is left is for the babies. We are praying together in solidarity in this very difficult moment."

Chantal Pierre, 19, somehow made it to the gates of the U.N. base, which is occupied by mostly Argentine troops. Soldiers carried her on a stretcher into a gym and laid her gently down. She went into labor amid the weightlifting equipment.

Minutes later, at a makeshift hospital on the base, she gave birth to a healthy girl.

A day earlier, Dorlean Nadege, 26, had given birth at the same place. Both babies slept in their mothers' arms Thursday. The doctor, Julio Cesar Lotero, said Pierre would leave on Friday, but Nadege would stay because her home was destroyed by floodwaters.

"She has to stay here," he said. "She has nowhere to go."

Associated Press writers Danica Coto and David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Hurricane update from OI Haiti

During September 2 and 3 Hanna had hits severly the city of Gonaives where OIHaiti was for the period of October 2005 till July #, 2008. Thanks to God we have left Gonaives. I have been reported that the house where we were in was flooded in the early morning of September 3, people were obliged to take the top of the house that is in cement and passed the day there - under the rain with no food at all because they couldn't move - until this morning of September 4. The ministry has postpone the opening of the school. However, Cyvadier has hit again. Yesterday, We had rain all day. But, again we are safe. If we had possibility, we should help some disadvatage people in the community that affects severly. It is very difficult for many families in Cyvadier who had nothing left.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Updates from OI Haiti's Assistant Director, Jacques

I couldn't have access to internet café because the hurricane Gustave had hit hardly the city of Jacmel, Specially the Cyvadier community. The community was really damaged. We have no electricity, all water drained damaged. Almost all trees down: mangoes, breadfruit trees, banana trees. Some houses are destroid and every where is flood. Thanks to God we, at the Orphans International Haiti, had nothing. But all around us was teers. I even affect directly because a coconut tree had fell on my father's house, that the roof is covered with iron sheet, and damage it a little bit. We are aware that there is an other hurricane named Ana that is on the air, we hope that it won't touch Jacmel. It would be a complete disaster.
PS: We are at the begining of another month, I have to pay the staff and get food for this month (every price raised up after the hurricane). Please, don't let us suffer too much.

Back-to-back storms leave Haiti farms reeling- Associated Press

Back-to-back storms leave Haiti farms reeling

By JONATHAN M. KATZ – 22 hours ago
FAUCHE, Haiti (AP) — Looking over his field of toppled banana trees, Jean Tilhomme Fontius said he had no choice but to raise prices on a staple fruit in this food-starved country after Hurricane Gustav battered his crop.
"I don't know how much we're going to sell them for now, but the price is going to have to go up," said the 51-year-old farmer, offering an apologetic shrug.
Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Fay both slammed Haiti in the past two weeks, killing at least 95 people and dealing a serious setback to efforts to boost agricultural production and break the impoverished country's dependence on imported food.
Relief workers are scrambling to respond to a crisis within a crisis as storm damage combined with persistent food shortages threatened to destabilize an already fragile political situation. Even as Gustav assaulted the southern city of Jacmel on Tuesday, protests over food prices were starting anew.
On Sunday, more than 8,700 people were still in shelters, some running out of food, while a preliminary U.N. report said Gustav's destruction to Haitian cropland was "very significant."
World Vision International planned to distribute food for 400 people on Friday, only to see 1,000 show up.
Almost 90 refugees in the town of Petit Goave still waited for food in a school shelter three days after the storm. A single pot of unseasoned beans simmered unwanted on a charcoal stove. The refugees refused to eat them without rice.
"We've been out of food since yesterday. The people outside are screaming," said the municipal official in charge of the shelter, Fritzgerald Douge, who had ducked into the principal's office to avoid an angry crowd of mothers.
The Western Hemisphere's poorest nation was already reeling from skyrocketing world food prices and rampant child malnutrition. Food riots in April left at least six Haitians and a U.N. peacekeeper dead and toppled the prime minister.
Only a fraction of tens of thousands of tons in food aid promised to quell the riots had been delivered by July.
The storms struck just as Haiti was making progress. World Vision International reached its goal of handing out more than 550 tons (500 metric tons) of food in August — including some that had piled up in warehouses in July.
New Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, who was approved by parliament in late July, was working to build a new government.
But farms on Haiti's southern peninsula were first drenched by Fay and then flattened by Gustav, which roared ashore as a Category 1 hurricane, ripping apart tin shacks, toppling mountainsides and sending cascades of water into vulnerable fields below.
According to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report released Saturday, six miles of irrigation channels were destroyed in the peninsula town of Belle Roche. In another group of towns near Jacmel, 2,000 heads of livestock were swept away by rushing rivers, the report said.
Hardwood trees that should have protected Fontius' fields were cut down years ago to sell for charcoal, allowing the storm to flatten hundreds of his banana plants and leave behind a thick carpet of sandy mud.
Fontius and other farmers in the small peninsula town of Fauche, about an hour west of Port-au-Prince, had been selling most varieties of bananas and plantains for around US$3.55 a bunch, anywhere from 60 to 100 individual pieces.
Now they will likely double their prices to keep their families from going hungry.
"We have nothing," said Fontius, whose eight children range from ages 12 to 27. "Life is like living in a cloud for us. We never know what is going to happen."
Aid groups and government officials sent teams of agricultural monitors and promised aid to shelters by next week.
Some monitors had to wait until Friday to tour the damage because of a travel ban imposed by U.N. peacekeepers.
A local Interior Ministry official in nearby Grand Goave said the impact of the storms would continue reverberating for months in meager harvests and with families whose losses force them to pull children out of school.
With Tropical Storm Hanna churning north of the Bahamas and a tropical wave headed west from the African coast, those who work in Haiti know the worst may not be over yet.
"Every day the situation is getting worse. The people are planting and waiting for food when these hurricanes go through," said Pierre Antoinier St.-Cyr, who monitors Les Cayes for the Lambi Fund agricultural group. "We have to keep starting over all the time."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

From Jacques, Haiti Project Director

Hello all! Our first week in Cyvadier We all were glad to move from Gonaïves, the dusty and unsafe area to Jacmel the clean, beautiful and safe city. We all are happy to live in the beautiful house in Cyvadier that is far more beautiful than the one in Gonaïves. The yard has mango tree, coconut trees, and banana trees. Rose Nancy suggests that we use this model of house for our construction. Our orphans already visited some places in Cyvadier. They went to the beach (pics attached), they went to pick lemon in garden (pics attached). They enjoy being in Cyvadier. However, we can’t completely set the house up. We need wardrobe for the rooms, table cloth, table and more chairs for the dining room and curtains for the windows and the bathrooms. Life in Cyvadier is expensive. It is more expensive than in Gonaïves. The price of tap tap is double; a tank of gas (25 lbs) is 10% more. We are experiencing a new life in Cyvadier. We need lots of support. We thank all OI members for their supports that allow us to be in Cyvadier, now. Without you, we wouldn’t make any step forward. In an emergency, you prove how much you want the OI Haiti to stay alive. And I know that you are working hard so we can make giant step to move forward. May God bless you all. May he give you strength and keep you in good health. PS: the girls are going to start with a latino dance class this Saturday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

America's Role in Haiti's Hunger Riots

By Bill Quigley, t r u t h o u t | Report

Monday, 21 April 2008

Riots in Haiti over explosive rises in food costs have claimed the lives of six people. There have also been food riots worldwide in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Economist, which calls the current crisis the silent tsunami, reports that last year wheat prices rose 77 percent and rice 16 percent, but since January rice prices have risen 141 percent. The reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, and the push to create biofuels from cereal crops.

Hermite Joseph, a mother working in the markets of Port-au-Prince, told journalist Nick Whalen that her two kids are "like toothpicks - they're not getting enough nourishment. Before, if you had $1.25, you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil. Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and is not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With $1.25, you can't even make a plate of rice for one child."

The St. Claire's Church Food program, in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, serves 1,000 free meals a day, almost all to hungry children

- five times a week in partnership with the What If Foundation. Children from Cité-Soleil have been known to walk the five miles to the church for a meal. The costs of rice, beans, vegetables, a little meat, spices, cooking oil and propane for the stoves, have gone up dramatically. Because of the rise in the cost of food, the portions are now smaller. But hunger is on the rise, and more and more children come for the free meal. Hungry adults used to be allowed to eat the leftovers once all the children were fed, but now there are few leftovers.

The New York Times lectured Haiti on April 18 that "Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself." Unfortunately, the article did not talk at all about one of the main causes of the shortages - the fact that the US and other international financial bodies destroyed Haitian rice farmers to create a major market for heavily subsidized rice from US farmers. This is not the only cause of hunger in Haiti and other poor countries, but it is a major force.

Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries, to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The US has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened. "Within less than two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they called 'Miami rice.' The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as cheap, US subsidized rice, some of it in the form of 'food aid,' flooded the market.

There was violence ... 'rice wars,' and lives were lost."

"American rice invaded the country," recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who has been the pastor at St. Claire and an outspoken human rights advocate, agrees. "In the 1980s, imported rice poured into Haiti, below the cost of what our farmers could produce it. Farmers lost their businesses. People from the countryside started losing their jobs and moving to the cities. After a few years of cheap imported rice, local production went way down."

Still, the international business community was not satisfied. In 1994, as a condition for US assistance in returning to Haiti to resume his elected presidency, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced by the US, the IMF and the World Bank to open up the markets in Haiti even more.

But Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; what reason could the US have for destroying the rice market of this tiny country?

Haiti is definitely poor. The US Agency for International Development reports the annual per capita income is less than $400. The United Nations reports life expectancy in Haiti is 59, while in the US it is 78. Over 78 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day, more than half live on less than $1 a day.

Yet, Haiti has become one of the top importers of rice from the United States. The US Department of Agriculture 2008 numbers show Haiti is the third-largest importer of US rice - at over 240,000 metric tons of rice. (One metric ton is 2,200 pounds).

Rice is a heavily subsidized business in the US.

Rice subsidies in the US totaled $11 billion from 1995 to 2006. One producer alone, Riceland Foods of Stuttgart, Arkansas, received over $500 million in rice subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The Cato Institute recently reported that rice is one of the most heavily supported commodities in the US - with three different subsidies together averaging over $1 billion a year since 1998 and projected to average over $700 million a year through 2015. The result? "Tens of millions of rice farmers in poor countries find it hard to lift their families out of poverty because of the lower, more volatile prices caused by the interventionist policies of other countries."

In addition to three different subsidies for rice farmers in the US, there are also direct tariff barriers of three to 24 percent, reports Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute - the exact same type of protections, though much higher, that the US and the IMF required Haiti to eliminate in the 1980s and 1990s.

US protection for rice farmers goes even further.

A 2006 story in The Washington Post found that the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all; including $490,000 to a Houston surgeon who owned land near Houston that once grew rice.

And it is not only the Haitian rice farmers who have been hurt.

Paul Farmer saw it happen to the sugar growers as well. "Haiti, once the world's largest exporter of sugar and other tropical produce to Europe, began importing even sugar - from US-controlled sugar production in the Dominican Republic and Florida. It was terrible to see Haitian farmers put out of work.

All this speeded up the downward spiral that led to this month's food riots."

After the riots and protests, President Rene Preval of Haiti agreed to reduce the price of rice, which was selling for $51 for a 110-pound bag, to $43 dollars for the next month. No one thinks a one-month fix will do anything but delay the severe hunger pains a few weeks.

Haiti is far from alone in this crisis. The Economist reports a billion people worldwide live on

$1 a day. The US-backed Voice of America reports about 850 million people were suffering from hunger worldwide before the latest round of price increases.

Thirty-three countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told The Wall Street Journal. When countries have many people who spend half to three-quarters of their daily income on food, "there is no margin of survival."

In the US, people are feeling the worldwide problems at the gas pump and in the grocery.

Middle-class people may cut back on extra trips or on high price cuts of meat. The number of people on food stamps in the US is at an all-time high. But in poor countries, where malnutrition and hunger were widespread before the rise in prices, there is nothing to cut back on except eating. That leads to hunger riots.

In the short term, the world community is sending bags of rice to Haiti. Venezuela sent 350 tons of food. The US just pledged $200 million extra for worldwide hunger relief. The UN is committed to distributing more food.

What can be done in the medium term? The US provides much of the world's food aid, but does it in such a way that only half of the dollars spent actually reach hungry people. US law requires that food aid be purchased from US farmers, processed and bagged in the US and shipped on US vessels - which cost 50 percent of the money allocated. A simple change in US law to allow some local purchase of commodities would feed many more people and support local farm markets.

In the long run, what is to be done? The president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who visited Haiti last week, said "Rich countries need to reduce farm subsidies and trade barriers to allow poor countries to generate income with food exports. Either the world solves the unfair trade system, or every time there's unrest like in Haiti, we adopt emergency measures and send a little bit of food to temporarily ease hunger."

Citizens of the US know very little about the role of their government in helping create the hunger problems in Haiti or other countries. But there is much that individuals can do. People can donate to help feed individual hungry people and participate with advocacy organizations such as Bread for the World or Oxfam to help change the US and global rules which favor the rich countries. This advocacy can help countries have a better chance to feed themselves.

Meanwhile, Merisma Jean-Claudel, a young high school graduate in Port-au-Prince, told journalist Wadner Pierre "... people can't buy food. Gasoline prices are going up. It is very hard for us over here.

The cost of living is the biggest worry for us; no peace in stomach means no peace in the mind.... I wonder if others will be able to survive the days ahead, because things are very, very hard."

"On the ground, people are very hungry," reported Father Jean-Juste. "Our country must immediately open emergency canteens to feed the hungry until we can get them jobs. For the long run, we need to invest in irrigation, transportation, and other assistance for our farmers and workers."

In Port-au-Prince, some rice arrived in the last few days. A school in Father Jean-Juste's parish received several bags of rice. They had raw rice for 1,000 children, but the principal still had to come to Father Jean-Juste asking for help. There was no money for charcoal or oil.

Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children, stood in a long line Saturday in Port-au-Prince to get UN-donated rice and beans. When Rodman got the small bags, he told Ben Fox of The Associated Press, "The beans might last four days. The rice will be gone as soon as I get home."

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at People interested in donating to feed children in Haiti should go to People who want to help change US policy on agriculture to help combat worldwide hunger should go to: or

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Breaking News: Report from OI Haiti (4/12/08)

The situation in Haiti is politically unstable, inflationary - and just plain scary. We are sending more money to Haiti than we are taking in. We need your help. Here is an idea on the price of the every day staples on April 2007 and their price now:

Products April ‘07 April ‘08

· Rice (55#) $18.68 $29.05

· Millet (6#) $ 1.11 $ 2.49

· Cornmeal $16.60 $23.52

· Cooking oil $ 5.12 $ 9.69

· Milk (2 gal) $13.83 $ 19.36

· Propane $13.83 $17.98

Jacques Africot, OIH Director

“We were almost dead”…

“If you are going downtown bring a knife.”

This is what Jean Kerby, one of our little boys, told me after coming back from school one hour earlier than usual, Tuesday, April 8, 2008 – less than a week ago.

All the kids tried to explain to me at the same time that people launched rocks at their school, forcing the principle to release them. It was 10am, last Tuesday when the protest started in Gonaives.

When there is a riot, they force the school to close their door to force their participation. The crowd wanted to force the government to pay attention (or to do something) to the increasing of the price of the products. Especially, the price on the groceries. Our kids are safe, but scared.

The crowd shouted: “Better die with gun than hungry.” In fact, since the end of last year, the price of many products started to go up. Since the end of March and the beginning of this April, it has been unbearable. In two weeks the price of groceries is almost double.

Donate Today - Haiti Relief!

Life is Getting Harder (and scarier) in Haiti

In less than two months the rice price has doubled from $35 to $70 for a 120 pound sack, and gasoline has seen its third price hike. The shrinking U.S. dollar doesn't help either. So, for the children, we must ask for more financial help from OI donors.

This July, we must move the children to a new home and new school in a new town. Everything in Haiti is expensive, if you can get it at all. The reason that less than 20% of children in Haiti go to school is because their parents can't afford the high tuition rates, or the uniforms, books, and travel to get there.

Right now we need $5,000 in additional donations to secure our first year rental house and make the July move. Our regular transfer payments are maxed out because of the inflationary crisis, which isn't going away.

Our loyal Haitian staff does a great job of stretching every dollar and keeping our kids supplied... but it has become impossible to keep up on the child sponsorship rates we receive.

So we are asking you for special humanitarian donations for Haiti. All are tax deductible. And all money will IMMEDIATELY go to Haiti to secure our kids' future. Since they were orphaned by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, they have no one to look to but us. Please help.

– Linda Stanley, Executive Director, Orphans International America, New York

Why There Are Food Riots In Haiti

April 2008, The Associated Press

Food prices, which have risen 40% on average globally since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But they pose a particular threat to democracy in Haiti, where most people live on less than $2 a day.

“We hope the president says food prices are going to go down,” said Paul Fleury, a 53-year-old man who has been unemployed for a decade. “I have five kids and I provide food if I can. Some days it’s bread and sugar.”

Haiti, home to 8.5 million people, is the poorest country in the Americas.

Eighty per cent of its population earns less than $2 a day, below the UN-established poverty rate. “Living conditions are horrible. We are tired of hearing promises, we want fast action,” Wilson, one of the protesters outside the presidential palace, told the AFP news agency.

Price Rises. The protests began after a sudden jump in prices for fuel and basic food commodities.

The rice price has doubled from $35 to $70 for a 120 pound sack, and gasoline has seen its third price hike in less than two months.

Jacques-Edouard Alexis, Haiti’s prime minister, condemned the protests but acknowledged the source of the discontent. On Monday he announced a $42 million program to ease the situation, including the creation of thousands of jobs for youth, grants for small businesses, and other measures to solve the problems.

“These measures take time. We need to have patience,” he said on local radio.

April 11, Washington (AKI)

Rising food prices will threaten economic growth and worsen poverty around the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The organization says price increases will put further strain on a global economy already hard hit by a financial crisis.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, said the price increases were caused by drought in Australia and in central Europe, and growing demand for food in Asian countries. Higher oil prices are exacerbating costs in many countries as well.

“Food prices increased by 48 percent since the end of 2006 until now, which is a huge increase, and it may undermine all the gains we have obtained in reducing poverty,” Strauss-Kahn said. The IMF said because food represents a larger share of what poorer consumers buy, a global increase in food prices has a bigger impact on inflation in poorer countries.

As a sign of growing strain, there have been recent food riots in Haiti and Egypt.