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Page last updated at 22:08 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 23:08 UK

View from Haiti: Aid worker

Prospery Raymond, Christian Aid's representative in Haiti, reports on the food riots that have plunged this troubled nation into crisis.

Prospery Raymond (image courtesy of Christian Aid)
Prospery Raymond's family is running out of food because stores have closed

It is getting very serious now. The stores are all closed and my family is running out of food.

Even my six-year-old daughter knows that people are being killed on the streets. She has heard the shots and the rioters breaking windows.

Now the schools are closed, the markets are closed, and yesterday the airport closed for international flights - everyone is shut up at home.

People are hungry and angry. There are food stocks in the dock but the importers cannot get them out.

Looters are everywhere. They have even stormed a UN warehouse that was stockpiling emergency food rations in preparation for this year's hurricane season.

The staple foods in Haiti are rice and beans.

We used to grow enough to feed ourselves, but most of our rice is imported from the US now and prices have shot beyond people's reach.

Haitian police detain men suspected of trying to loot a supermarket in Port-au-Prince
Soaring prices and food shortages in Haiti have led to riots and looting

A cup of rice costs about 50 gourdes. For those who are earning - and most are not - the average daily wage is only about 35 gourdes.

We still grow beans ourselves but last year's disasters, Hurricane Dean and Tropical Storm Noel, destroyed a lot of the harvest.

It is raining now in the north-west, and farmers should be planting their beans.

But because there is no food, they have already eaten the grain and beans that they would have used as seed.

If our farmers cannot plant now, they will harvest nothing and the crisis will simply roll on for another year. They need seeds urgently.

Christian Aid's local partner is monitoring the situation in the north-west, and is hoping to provide corn, beans, sorghum and pistachio seeds to about 2,000 farmers here.

If they plant now, they will have food again in a few months' time.

Rice does not grow well in the north-west, but in the areas where it does, the government too should be distributing seeds.

It is not good for a country as poor as ours to be so wholly reliant on buying in food, because when international prices rise, or disease strikes, people cannot eat

Supporting our rice farmers is vital, both immediately and in the longer term.

So far, the government has done little to address the problem.

They urgently need to import food and start subsidising rice and beans. Lowering the price of petrol, as an emergency measure, would also help.

Ultimately, Haiti needs to do more to support its own producers.

We import 30 million eggs a month from the Dominican Republic, and only produce one million ourselves.

This year there was an outbreak of bird flu in the DR, and our government banned all chicken and egg imports.

It is not good for a country as poor as ours to be so wholly reliant on buying in food, because when international prices rise, or disease strikes, people cannot eat.




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