Monday, November 17, 2008

Famine in Haiti made in the U.S.

Famine in Haiti made in the U.S.

By G. Dunkel

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The four hurricanes that hit Haiti in August and September directly caused 800 deaths and massive destruction of its roads and bridges, along with the crops and cropland that feed its people.

Haiti is so poor that it couldn't recover from this devastation. At the end of October, people in isolated communities started dying from hunger.

In Baie d'Orange, a community of 20,000 associated with the municipality of Belle-Anse in southeast Haiti, 16 children and two adults died from hunger in the last week of October. Pierre Antoine Diléné, a doctor working in Belle-Anse, confirmed the deaths and emphasized that many were also suffering from dysentery, fevers and skin diseases. (AlterPress, Oct. 30)

Le Nouvelliste reports that the road to Belle-Anse, cut by the effects of the hurricanes, was only opened at the end of October. (Nov. 7)

Kim Ives, a Brooklyn-based journalist with the Haitian newspaper Haïti-Liberté, returned from Haiti Nov. 6 and reports that the radio stations, the main source of news for most Haitians, are reporting deaths due to acute malnutrition in southwestern Haiti and in the north around Cap-Haitien.

While the southeast, southwest and north of Haiti contain some of the poorest areas of the country, hunger is generalized. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the average intake in Haiti is 1750 calories a day, about 75 percent of what an adult needs. Note that this figure is an average, which means there are many people getting less. (Haïti-Liberté, Nov. 5)

While the Haitian press, some French television channels and French-language Swiss television channels have covered hunger in Haiti, the English-language press has concentrated on the collapse of the La Promesse school in Petionville, a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince. The deaths of 88 children and teachers (as of Nov. 9) in a building collapse provoked by the acts of the school owner are indeed a tragedy. The rapid response of U.S. rescue teams and French teams from Martinique showed these countries can act quickly.

But Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank who visited Haiti at the end of October, feels that forgiveness of Haiti's debt needs to be reviewed. The earliest this process will be completed is the middle of 2009.

Until this happens, Haiti will have to pay a bit more than $1 million a week—enough to guarantee that no Haitian would starve to death—to prove it is fit for "help" from the Multilateral Financial Institutions. Obtained by the Duvaliers and the military juntas that succeeded them, these loans now being repaid were used for their luxurious living and to swell their Swiss bank accounts. (haitiaction.net, "Haiti: Racism and Poverty" Oct. 26)

Zoellick was the deputy U.S. secretary of state who helped negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and then left the position for Goldman Sachs. He was at Goldman Sachs in 2007 when it paid out more than $18 billion in bonuses to its 22,000 traders—more than 50 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product.

Part of the weakness of the Haitian state is the insistence of the international donor community that all their "aid" flow through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which means a sizable slice goes to overhead—like salaries paid at rates far higher than those prevailing for Haitians. Another sizable slice is directed to companies in the "donor" countries and their profits. Of course, a significant amount of the promised aid never shows up, and the NGOs don't dare complain.

The reason Haiti is currently starving is simple. Canada, the U.S. and France—the three imperialist powers most involved in exploiting Haiti—colluded in the overthrow of the democratic government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide four years ago. They couldn't let a poor, small country defy their wishes and elect a president that the people wanted.

For the past 200 years, ever since the enslaved people of Haiti won their freedom and independence by defeating France, England and Spain, the developed nations of North America and Europe have tried to reverse this defeat.

Haiti has resisted and survived, as best it can. Long live Haiti!

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