Aid Organizations Say Embargo Has Hurt Hungry Haitians
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Malnutrition is rising in parts of Haiti despite U.S. assertions that food shipments are reaching the poor, aid organizations in Haiti said Wednesday.
Directors of two major aid providers blamed the fuel embargo imposed on Haiti by the United Nations in an attempt to pressure the country’s military leaders to allow the return of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The resulting gasoline shortage has hampered humanitarian efforts to feed the hungry, the relief workers said.
″The situation is in crisis,″ said Chris Conrad, country director of CARE International.
He and Doug Greene, country director for Catholic Relief Services, disputed comments made Tuesday by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alexander Watson, who said food programs were reaching the most vulnerable Haitians.
Watson said U.S. foreign aid officials monitoring 38 locations around the country ″have not detected any significant increase in malnutrition as yet.″
But Conrad said most of Haiti’s poorest people live in remote areas, far from the hospitals and clinics where statistics on malnutrition are taken.
In particular, he said, relief workers have been arguing for months that the situation in the northwest was declining.
CARE resumed hauling food Wednesday to the northwest after receiving a special shipment of fuel for humanitarian groups, he said, but it will take up to 30 days for the programs to return to ″acceptable levels.″
Overall, the number of Haitians fed by CARE has dropped from a high of 580,000 last year to 117,000 because of a fuel shortage that had kept trucks of food sitting in Port-au-Prince, Conrad said.
Greene said malnutrition statistics at Catholic Relief Services’ 20 centers in southern Haiti ″have remained relatively stable.″
But in the northwest, Greene said, even the latest U.S. statistics, reflected in a December report by the Agency for International Development, show a rise in malnutrition.
Greene estimated Catholic Relief Services, which also recently received humanitarian fuel, would take 4 to 6 weeks to get food supplies back to normal.
″We had such a big slowdown that we’re playing catch-up now,″ he said, adding his agency was feeding about 140,000 of the 166,000 children it is targeting.