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Economic Pressures Worsen Haiti’s Recovery

September 22, 2008

International Economic Pressures Worsen Haiti’s Hurricane Recovery

Haiti’s recovery from a series of tropical storms and hurricanes that killed 550 is aggravated by the already desperate plight of its people, development organisation Christian World Service (CWS) says.

Haiti is the western hemisphere’s poorest country, sitting low on the Human Development Index at 146 out of 177 countries.

Strong winds and torrential rains over the past month have battered Haiti's already fragile infrastructure, leaving more than 500 dead and as many as one million homeless, according to Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis. She has called on the international community to give more assistance.

Aid agencies have warned of severe outbreaks of disease in Haiti as thousands of people remained in squalid, cramped shelters. Some areas are still without clean water supplies.

New Zealand international development organisation CWS supports a Haitian development organisation working to revive gardens and replenish small livestock numbers in a country already struggling with oppressive economic and political torment.

However, Institut Cuturel Karl Leveque is working with other Haitian organisations to ensure some families can produce food again. CWS is receiving donations for this recovery work.

Two-thirds of Haitians depend on mainly small-scale subsistence farming, making them vulnerable to the devastation of frequent natural disasters. However, damaging trade conditions imposed on Haiti exacerbate the effect of natural disasters. Funding conditions imposed by the IMF and World Bank on loans to Haiti have left 60 per cent of the economy depending on foreign aid. The international community, not Haiti, has profited from investment opportunities. During the 1990s, Haiti was forced to remove import tariffs on basic foods. Its rice market was flooded with US-subsidised rice, leaving local growers unable to compete. Previously a net exporter, Haiti now imports 82% of its rice consumption and spends 80% of export earnings on food.

In 2006, 60 Haitian babies died at birth for every 1000 births, and 80 children of every 1000 die before their fifth birthday, the UN says. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says 46% of people are undernourished, as food intake falls below the minimum required.

Poor countries often feel the brunt of disasters more than developed nations because of weak economies, low levels of savings, high debt, poor infrastructure and weak public finances. In Haiti, the threat is also from the consequences of foreign intervention.

ENDS

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