Saturday, December 8, 2012

post-Sandy hunger

I think I'm ready for everyone to have a respite from natural disasters.  Aren't we all?

This week we heard that President Obama plans to ask Congress for 50 BILLION dollars for clean-up from Sandy.  Where will we get the money? I understand that worry. And then there are those who are faced with the clean-up itself who know that won't cover it and who were hoping for $82 billion. 

One thing few people in the US will have to worry about, though, is actually starving to death as a result of the storm.  American food insecurity is a reality few recognize, and it's of real concern.  I think especially of children. It's hard to learn when hungry, and lack of proper nutrition hampers physical and mental development.  I could go on, but I'll spare you that in order to point out the obvious: it's worse in Haiti.  Especially this year.  And I don't like what I hear.  This coming year will be rough.  Food prices? I could be concerned about our budget - but we have one.  A budget, I mean.  I don't expect to be going all day without food.  Then there are all those people who eat from their gardens, the gardens that got washed away along with their hopes of selling produce to pay for school tuition for their children.  Now it's about finding them food.

This week an official report was produced to explain the situation.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Study: Widespread hunger in Haiti after storms - Haiti -

An excerpt from the AP coverage of the report:
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haitians have suffered widespread hunger following an unusually active storm season this year and are likely to experience more, according to a study released Friday.

The report, backed by a Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-based think tank, found that rural households in the heavily hit areas of Haiti's west, north and Grand-Anse departments experienced what it termed "severe food shortages" after Hurricane Sandy and an unnamed storm that followed. The two merely brushed the Caribbean nation in October and November but caused major flooding and killed as many as 66 people.

Nearly 70 percent of the more than 1,000 households interviewed said they experienced moderate or severe hunger, according to the study, "After the Storm: Haiti's Coming Food Crisis."

The report was written by social scientists Athena Kolbe, Marie Puccio and Robert Muggah, who frequently work in the impoverished country. It echoes U.N. warnings that more than 1.5 million of Haiti's people are at risk of malnutrition because they lost crops in the storms. As much as 90 percent of Haiti's harvest season, much of it in the south, was destroyed in Sandy's floods, the world body said.

Read more here:
[And here's a first for me: I've found the same article translated into French on a Haitian news page:]

The New York Times ran an article about the food situation a few weeks ago, too. 

It starts out like this:
FAUCHÉ, Haiti — A woman who lost just about everything now gives her children coffee for meals because it quiets their stomachs a bit.

Seriously, when is Haiti going to get a break?
As they summarize the situation:
As if the quake were not enough, Haiti is now suffering the combined onslaught of storms and, before that, drought, imperiling its food supply, causing $254 million in agricultural losses and throwing 1.6 million people — about 16 percent of the population — into dire straits.

Tropical Storm Isaac in August destroyed farms in the north, preceded by a spring drought that devastated farms there. Then came Hurricane Sandy, which passed west of Hispaniola and over Jamaica but was large enough to send 20 inches of rain over southern Haiti.

Last week, as the government and the United Nations took stock of the storm and grappled with flooding in the north from a fresh cloudburst that left 10 people dead, they issued an emergency appeal for $39 million in humanitarian aid to a world weary of its recurrent disasters.

Add to the food crisis the fact that bridges were washed out, so there are towns that are nearly impossible to reach.   All this from brushes with hurricanes - thank God for the mercy of avoiding direct hits.

At least the weather seems to have improved for the moment. 

But it continues elsewhere: Enough already! 

Everyone everywhere is up to their ears with disasters, and we still haven't cleaned up from those of the last decade (remember Katrina? how about the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant meltdown in Japan?).  Somehow we need to learn to care for the environment and care for each other, to respond to urgent needs and to plan wisely for the future.  I don't know how we can do that, but I am confident that there are those who do and that we can all contribute something to move the world in the right direction.

Advent is a season of hope and expectation.  God reminds us that it isn't over yet, and God promises to walk with us through all of this.  So instead of worrying, we pray and work while we wait.  Pray for seasonable weather and wisdom in planting: may God have mercy on farmers here in Haiti and elsewhere.  Pray for children who drink coffee instead of eating, and also for those who have a Coke or potato chips for breakfast and only look reasonably fed. Pray for our scientists, our leaders, our economists, our media.  Pray for all those people who don't make the news. And keep praying for Haiti. 

Kyrie eleison.

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