In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Am I not Human? Human Rights Abuses in Haiti

On the 27th day of every month, a group of bloggers unite in an online campaign to share information about human rights abuses across the globe. This month, Cry Haiti focuses on the influence of global capitalism on food security in the Haiti.

There are many reasons for the current food crisis in Haiti. Arguably, the tiny Caribbean nation depends on subsistence farming and foreign imports because crop production is limited by severe environmental degradation, which has lead to soil erosion and seasonal flooding.

Haitians themselves are blamed for allowing large scale deforestation. Look a little deeper, and see the extent to which the trade policies of developed nations have continued to this problem: how our appetite for hard woods has lead to the deforestation of Haiti's land mass, and how imports of subsidised rice, notably from the United States have removed reason or motivation for Haitians to pursue sustainable agricultural development.

Now, international food production for human consumption has reduced due to the profitability of bio fuels and this, together with increased demand from India and China and the rising costs of fuel and fertiliser has driven up global food prices. Haiti has few resources to cope.

The United Nations ranks Haiti as one of the least developed countries in the world, and the poorest in the western hemisphere. More than half of the population lives on less than $1 per day and chronic malnutrition is widespread among children.

Since January, rice prices have risen by 114 percent. Henrite Joseph, a mother from the La Saline Slum spoke to journalist Nick Whalen, about the effects of rising food costs on her family.

"Before, if you had a dollar twenty-five [cents], you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil," she said. "Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and it's not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With a dollar twenty-five, you can't even make a plate of rice for one child." (IPS, April 16th 2008.)

The United Nations and various economists have called for urgent food aid in the short-term, and long-term investment in Haiti's agricultural sector. This would increase crop yields, enabling Haitians to produce food for their own consumption, and raise revenue by exporting the surplus. I would suggest that trade justice is also critical to empowering the poor.

Politicians will side-step the question, but lets seek a straight answer anyway. When, hungry Haitians ask, Am I not Human? do policy makers and consumers in developed countries consider their dignity? Let's say yes, and let us take whatever steps we can to address the injustice of hunger in Haiti.

*Anyone can assert compassion by contributing to feeding programmes in Haiti.
*Anyone can stand for justice by joining the fair trade movement.
*Anyone who wants action, not words from our politicians can call for the agricultural policies of developed countries to be reformed, to help combat world hunger
*Anyone who believes in dignity can support projects that foster long-term, sustainable agricultural development in Haiti.

1 comment:

Villager said...

Please continue to support this campaign. We continue to seek bloggers to campaign on human rights abusers on the 27th of each month. Include 'Am I Not Human?' in your post title.

Are you interested?

peace, Villager