Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: Food Rioting Begins in Haiti

  • Posted on: 4 April 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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I expected to hear of food riots in Haiti.  Life has never been easy for Haitians but escalating food costs have made just getting by more and more difficult.  If you and I went a day without eating and did not know if the next day let alone the next week would bring more of the same, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading this - we would be out in the streets protesting!


What took me by suprise about the rioting was the form it took.  Approximately 5,000 protestors stormed and looted both a police station and a UN base in the southern town of Les Cayes.  Police stood by as the proestors stole rice from trucks.  I didnt expect this in Les Cayes, a fairly mellow town in the south that is prosperous compared to most parts of the country.  That this happened there is an indication of the desperation people feel.


I did however expect it in Gonaives.  Ever since Haiti has existed, both social movements to revolutions have started in Gonaives.  Hundreds demonstrated while UN workers were evacuated to a police base.  Protests remained peaceful. According to the UN police spokesman, there were no injuries except for one demonstrator who was shot in the foot. 



People talk of Haiti as if it was stuck in the past.  To the contrary, Haiti is in the future - about 100 years in the future.  The problems that Haiti struggles with including overpopulation and envrionmental degradation are the same issues many other countries will struggle with if the world does not change.  As an old Peace Corps colleague put it, Haiti is the canary in the mine that alerts us to the fact that something is very wrong with the world in which we live.  We are all going to struggle with the same problems, but Haiti struggles first.   



According to the Globe and Mail,  80 per cent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. Rice, the Haitain staple, is up 50% from the year before. Beans, condensed milk and fruit are reported as going up at a similar rate with spaghetti having doubled.  When mangos double, we know we're in trouble.



UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, a strong advocate for Haiti, stated that food insecurity threatened to unravel the progress of the past year in terms of stability, economic growth, and governance.  When a peson is not eating, food is priority number one.  Everything else can and will wait. 


The article notes that there is graffiti all around Port au Prince declaring “Down with the expensive life!"  So much depends on ensuring that Haiti is able to feed itself.  Living in dignity depends on being able to meet the needs of one's family. 



In a previous blog, we laid out some ideas for short and long term solutions.   We would like to hear yours as well.





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