Occupied hungry Haitians eat mud


This video from the USA says about itself:

California activists demonstrate for peace, justice, and democracy in Haiti, and in opposition to U.N. violence against Haiti’s poor.

Oh, Haiti! After slavery, endless invasions by French, Spanish, British soldiers, then by United States Marines, western supported dictatorships by the Duvalier dynasty and others, in 2004, the elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was driven away at gunpoint by United States soldiers. Today, foreign occupation soldiers are still in the country. Well fed soldiers, probably; especially the top brass officers.

From British daily The Guardian:

Haiti: Mud cakes become staple diet as cost of food soars beyond a family’s reach

With little cash and import prices rocketing half the population faces starvation

* Rory Carroll in Port-au-Prince

Tuesday July 29 2008

In Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s worst slums, making the clay-based food is a major income earner. Mud cakes are the only inflation-proof food available to Haiti’s poor.

At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun.

The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food.

Brittle and gritty – and as revolting as they sound – these are “mud cakes”. For years they have been consumed by impoverished pregnant women seeking calcium, a risky and medically unproven supplement, but now the cakes have become a staple for entire families.

It is not for the taste and nutrition – smidgins of salt and margarine do not disguise what is essentially dirt, and the Guardian can testify that the aftertaste lingers – but because they are the cheapest and increasingly only way to fill bellies.

“It stops the hunger,” said Marie-Carmelle Baptiste, 35, a producer, eyeing up her stock laid out in rows. She did not embroider their appeal. “You eat them when you have to.”

These days many people have to. The global food and fuel crisis has hit Haiti harder than perhaps any other country, pushing a population mired in extreme poverty towards starvation and revolt. Hunger burns are called “swallowing Clorox”, a brand of bleach.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts Haiti’s food import bill will leap 80% this year, the fastest in the world. Food riots toppled the prime minister and left five dead in April. Emergency subsidies curbed prices and bought calm but the cash-strapped government is gradually lifting them. Fresh unrest is expected.

According to the UN, two-thirds of Haitians live on less than 50p a day and half are undernourished. “Food is available but people cannot afford to buy it. If the situation gets worse we could have starvation in the next six to 12 months,” said Prospery Raymond, country director of the UK-based aid agency Christian Aid.

Until recently this Caribbean nation, which vies with Afghanistan for appalling human development statistics, had been showing signs of recovery: political stability, new roads and infrastructure, less gang warfare. “We had been going in the right direction and this crisis threatens that,” said Eloune Doreus, the vice-president of parliament.

As desperation rises so does production of mud cakes, an unofficial misery index. Now even bakers are struggling. Trucked in from a clay-rich area outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, the mud is costlier but cakes still sell for 1.3p each, about the only item immune from inflation. “We need to raise our prices but it’s their last resort and people won’t tolerate it,” lamented Baptiste, the Cité Soleil baker.

Vendors of other foods who have increased prices have been left with unsold stock. In the Policard slum, a jumble of broken concrete clinging to a mountainside, the Ducasse family tripled the price of its fritters because of surging flour prices. “Our sales have fallen by half,” said Jean Ducasse, 49, poking at his tray of shrivelled wares. …

Haiti’s woes stem from global economic trends of higher oil and food prices, plus reduced remittances from migrant relatives affected by the US downturn. …

The woes were compounded by a decision in the 1980s [by dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier] to lift tariffs, when international prices were lower, and flood the country with cheap imported rice and vegetables. Consumers gained and the IMF applauded but domestic farmers went bankrupt and the Artibonite valley, the country’s breadbasket, atrophied. …

The only thing stopping an exodus are US coastguard patrols, said Herman Janvier, 30, a fishermen on Cap Haitian, a smuggling point. “People want out of here. It’s like we’re almost dead people.”

The last time Janvier tried to flee he was intercepted and interned at Guantánamo Bay. “I offered to join the American army. I offered to clean their base. They said no. So I am back here, on a boat with no motor, doing what I can to survive.”

Humanitarian crisis worsens in Haiti: here.

Military coup in Mauritania follows unrest over spiralling food prices: here.

1 thought on “Occupied hungry Haitians eat mud

  1. Pingback: Occupation soldiers abuse Haitian women, girls | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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