- Title: HAITI: Haiti storm victims face daily struggle for food
- Date: 16th September 2008
- Summary: DENIS'S CHILDREN
- Embargoed: 1st October 2008 13:00
- Location: Haiti
- Country: Haiti
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVA65HR535EZ3JAQG5KGS2Z6W7F
- Story Text: Haitians struggle to cope with the impact of the recent massive flooding.
Floods that devastated a Haitian city and killed hundreds threaten to trigger a health crisis and fresh outbreaks of food riots in the impoverished Caribbean country, government officials and aid workers say.
Since the floods, dozens of aid agencies have rushed to Haiti to provide short-term relief.
Gonaives is not the only city in Haiti devastated primarily by Tropical Storm Hanna, which filled Gonaives with water that rose as high as 15 feet (5 metres) and killed hundreds at the start of the month.
Bringing help to the city of 300,000 is difficult because the storm downed bridges and cut all roads leading into it, so the only access is by helicopter and boat.
Residents such as 45 year-old Dieuseul Denis, who is married with three daughters between the ages of 18 and 25, walk 12 kms a day, sometimes with one of her daughters, during three hours there and back, to eat and feed her family on a daily basis.
Denis woke up at 4am on Monday (September 15) and walked to a school called Louis Bourno where she lined up together with thousands of women showing signs of hunger and distress at a U.N. World Food Program distribution of food.
Many became desperate and started shouting as they waited for hours in the sun and some looked on the point of collapse.
After presenting a ticket, while being watched over by U.N.
peacekeepers from Argentina and from Peru, some in riot gear to keep order, the women, in groups or 20, received 110-pound (50- kg) bags of rice,
8-pound (4-kg) of beans, cooking oil and a lump of soy at food distributions in Gonaives.
"We were waiting in line to receive food, we were affected by a flood caused by hurricane Hanna. We lost everything, we don't have anything and that is the reason we are here," Denis told Reuters.
After standing in line for four hours, Denis walked back wearing a flimsy pair of sandals along a godforsaken path to feed her family.
When she arrived she had to separate the food among three families to feed 20 people in total - 12 children and eight adults - staying at a neighbour's house which survived the flooding and storms.
The adults take turns everyday to fetch the food.
Raphael Chuinard , the coordinator of the World Food Programme in Gonaives, said the situation was becoming chaotic.
"It has been quite difficult because of the tension in the city and for security reasons and for health reasons because to avoid having the beneficiaries at risk with the pressure of the crowd we decided to have the food distribution centres a little bit outside the city for the moment,"
Entire sections of the city close to the sea are no-go zones, impassable for even the biggest vehicles, and tens of thousands of people have migrated to the northern section of the city, which is set on slightly higher ground and avoided the flooding.
Thousands of families who escaped to their roofs at the height of Tropical Storm Hanna are still living there because their houses remain uninhabitable.
Denis's husband bathed using buckets of water.
Families said they were resigned to drinking whatever water they could find that "looked clean."
Not surprisingly, diarrhoea is a growing health problem.
As Denis's daughter, Nadege Yliome, cooked she said children could not put up with more hunger.
"We would like to ask people to help take care of us because children can't bear this. We are older and can spend two days without eating but children can't. I have two children, one is eight and the other one is four years-old. They are now in the countryside."
It took Denis and her daughter approximately eight hours to get sufficient food to eat for one day. She will have to repeat the same feat tomorrow and the day after if she and her family want to survive.
"Early this morning we walked a long way from here to find food and it was a struggle as people were pushing. When we arrived to get a sack of food for three families to share, we encountered many difficulties."
Gonaives, is the capital of the country's rice bowl region of Artibonite, which suffered severe storm damage.
Charity Christian Aid estimates that roughly one third of the country's 60,000-ton annual production of rice may have been ruined by floods.
It could also have a big impact on the overall food economy.
Food is a sensitive political issue in the Caribbean nation, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Malnutrition is rampant in Haiti, where many people live on less than $2 a day.
Riots in April over an increase in food prices killed at least five people, including a member of the U.N. peacekeeping force, and collapsed the government of Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis, an ally of President Rene Preval.
The soaring cost of rice, beans, cooking oil and other staples was caused by grains being diverted into ethanol production, a growing demand for meat as India and China became wealthier, high global oil prices and, to some extent, market speculation. But in Haiti many people blamed the government.
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