Diaspora

For peace in Haiti, first win the war on hunger – The Guardian

The millions of Haitians facing food insecurity need our help, says Jean-Martin Bauer of the UN’s World Food Programme, while Selma James urges robust reporting on the crisis
“Arguably the two most important steps for the restoration of order [in Haiti] are ending the gangs’ power and holding meaningful new elections,” says your article (Haiti crisis: how did it get so bad, what is the role of gangs, and is there a way out?, 12 January). Peace is a laudable aim, as are the free and fair elections Haitians desperately need. But the international community must recognise that ending conflict in Haiti requires a bottom-up approach that is pegged to making sure people do not go to bed hungry.
At this juncture, the failure of donor countries to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance is unconscionable, with 20,000 people facing famine-like conditions in Port-au-Prince and 4.7 million facing food insecurity across the country – almost half its population.
The UN’s World Food Programme is continuing food distributions to people in a number of high-risk settings where gangs have influence. In December we reached 800,000 people countrywide, with cash grants and school meals too. But we are running out of food supplies. While WFP has scaled up its assistance, the donor community has simply not stepped up.
WFP Haiti is still short of $105m (£85m) to fund its programmes over the next six months – and as ever, children under five and women are on the frontline of rising malnutrition. Political will must be mobilised for immediate action. Haitians can’t wait.
Jean-Martin Bauer
Country director, World Food Programme, Haiti
Your article on the Haiti crisis omits mention of the only Haitian government that people voted in by a landslide – twice. Headed by the former liberation theology priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, it uniquely focused on tackling poverty, supporting small farmers, building schools and hospitals, increasing the minimum wage and demanding justice for victims of rape by the military.
Greatly loved by the grassroots, President Aristide was forced into exile by US-backed military coups in 1991 and 2004. Haitians won his return to Haiti, but not to power, in 2011. (I and my colleague Margaret Prescod, who later reported on the 2019 Lasalin massacre, were invited to welcome the Aristides home.) Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, was repeatedly barred from elections, depriving most voters of their candidates and ensuring results favouring corrupt US puppets like Jovenel Moïse.
Your article mentions the “debt” imposed by France – the imperial power defeated by the Haitian revolution in 1804 – for the loss of its “property”, the slaves who had liberated themselves. But it omits that France backed the coup against Aristide (on the revolution’s bicentennial) because he had dared demand “reparations” from France for the impoverishment their unconscionable debt had caused.
Despite horrific massacres, today’s Black Jacobins will never submit to another foreign military occupation. Fanmi Lavalas, the only political force that has credibility and popular support, calls for an interim government of “public safety” (Sali Piblik) to create a foundation for free and fair elections. Why isn’t this reported?
Selma James
London
In 1959, Fidel Castro and his colleagues took control of Cuba and poured the people’s and government’s efforts into education, health, housing, agriculture and job creation. With some Russian and Chinese support, but in the face of an international trade boycott by much of the world for 60 years, it has managed to support its population. Just think what its neighbour Haiti might manage to do with similar policies and the goodwill of western support.
Barbara Phillips
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

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