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17626: (Chamberlain) Haiti-Hunger (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   CAP-HAITIEN, 6 Jan 04 (AP) -- Ravaged by poverty and rising political
unrest, parts of northern Haiti are suffering from a hunger crisis that
could worsen as aid agencies struggle to resolve the problem with half the
food they were expecting, the World Food Program said Tuesday.
   The U.N. agency, with the help of Oxfam and Caritas, is trying to
deliver emergency aid to northern villages where recent floods have left
nearly 25,000 people without food. To feed the neediest, food is being
borrowed from school feeding programs.
   "These people are barely surviving," said Guy Gauvreau, the World Food
Program's officer in Haiti who recently came from its Afghanistan office.
"This is a silent crisis but unfortunately donor countries have not made
Haiti a priority."
   The World Food Program determines need by various means, including field
visits, surveying villages and collecting information from the Haitian
government and other aid agencies.
   The crisis can be seen on the faces of barefooted children running
across the sewage-clogged ditches of the Fort Saint Michel slum, outside
Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city. Pale with orange-tinted hair --
telltale signs of malnutrition -- many go days without eating.
   Most suffer from chronic diseases. Many die before their fifth
   "Sometimes I go for a couple days without eating," said Madeline Joseph,
22, holding her sickly 8-month-old son, Youvens Jean. "I try to feed him
when I can but it's never enough and he's always sick. I can't take this
   Floods wiped away the maize and cassava harvest in much of the north
coast last month, stealing away the little income men earned as farmers.
The rains took food off the tables of the poor, and in some areas more than
40 percent are without food, Gauvreau said.
   Unlike Afghanistan, which asked for $100 million in donations and
received it, Haiti's WFP office asked for $10 million and received less
than $5 million.
   The crisis comes as deepening poverty and unrest have pushed Haiti, the
Western Hemisphere's poorest country, to its breaking point.
   Since mid-September, anti-government protests have surged, leaving at
least 42 people dead and littering roads with barricades that hinder food
   "There are demonstrations now every day," said Nelta Jean-Louis, a field
worker for the World Food Program. "Sometimes it's too dangerous for us to
distribute food when there are burning tire barricades blocking the
streets, but the people need this food."
   Tensions have been rising since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party
swept flawed 2000 legislative elections.
   Cash-strapped and facing growing dissent, the government has been unable
to help the very people it promised to help. Once a priest in the slums,
Aristide rose to power largely on promises to improve life for the poor.
   "So far, we've gotten nothing from the government," Jean-Louis said. "We
need help from the outside because the government is unable to meet its
   Although tensions have increased, politics has escaped the hungriest.
   "I can't read. I can't write. All I care about is figuring out how I
will feed my children," said Charite Jevousaime, 52, who is waiting for the
aid agencies to help feed her 13 children. "I do the best I can but
sometimes the children don't eat."
   Most of Haiti's 8 million are jobless or without regular work and live
on less than $1 day.
   The WFP is helping the neediest families by providing one-month rations
of 110 pounds of rice, 22 pounds of pulses and one gallon of vegetable oil.
   Oxfam is helping coordinate relief and is starting a flood recovery
project with $350,000 from the European Union, said William Gustave, an
organization official.
   Caritas, through the Cap-Haitien Catholic Diocese, is providing food to