Thursday, May 1, 2008

World Food Program sees "major crisis" in Haiti

By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE, April 30 (Reuters) - Haiti faces a "major crisis" if international donors fail to provide urgent aid to help feed its poor, a top official with the World Food Program said on Wednesday.

"It is not so important how much money we are able to raise for our cause," Pedro Medrano, the WFP director for Latin America and the Caribbean, told a news conference. "The question is how much the international community and all of us are prepared to pay for not doing what needs to be done."

The WFP appealed for $54 million in fresh funding to offset soaring food prices in Haiti and provide the country with about 50,000 tonnes of food between now and December.

"This is a major crisis. Are we going to intervene when it's too late?" asked Medrano, who spoke as he wrapped up a brief visit to the impoverished Caribbean nation, the poorest country in the Americas.

According to WFP figures, 66 percent of Haitians live on less than $1 dollar a day and 47 percent are undernourished.

At least six people were killed during riots in Haiti this month as protests against rising food prices and the high cost of living turned violent.

Lawmakers sought to quell the anger by dismissing Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, who was fired on April 12. But there are fears public unrest could erupt again and that the food crisis could spark an increase in the number of Haitians who attempt the dangerous 600-mile (966-km) sea journey to illegally enter the United States.

Angry protests over high food costs have rattled several countries in recent weeks as bad weather, competition with biofuels, market speculation and rising demand in Asia send the price of many staples skyrocketing. (Editing by Patricia Zengerle) (For more stories on global food price rises, please see here)

Related News